I learnt that stroke can strike anyone at any time the hard way

November 06, 2019

By Joanne

In July 2018, my partner Chris and I were enjoying a relaxing beachside holiday in Batemans Bay when our lives changed forever. 

Chris had spent that day fishing at Morayu Heads. He loved to fish but hasn’t returned to it since his stroke. 

That night, Chris was really restless. I heard him continuously hiccupping. While it was a bit strange, I was tired and didn’t think too much of it at the time. But by the next morning, I was woken up by what sounded like a long, drawn out hiccup. I checked on Chris and found him half out of bed. He wasn’t able to move much of the right hand side of his body, he was not speaking clearly and his face was drooping.  

At 56, Chris is known to be a joker, but he was not mucking around this time. These symptoms were real so I called triple zero (000) for help. It was incredibly frightening. 

An ambulance arrived with just one paramedic on board and he immediately called for back-up. Our holiday house could only be accessed by a set of narrow and steep stairs so the fire brigade was also called to help the paramedics gain access with their trolley. 

After being assessed by the paramedics, Chris was transferred between several hospitals that day.

Initially he was transported to the closest hospital where he was assessed by a doctor before being transferred to another hospital for a brain scan. His symptoms became worse as time ticked on. Chris was eventually taken to a larger hospital in Canberra with specialist care for stroke patients. 

My emotions were running high as Chris went from hospital to hospital. I followed in the car and all I could do was keep driving and hope he would be okay.

Fortunately Chris’ sons live in Canberra and were able to meet him at the hospital soon after he was admitted while I continued my journey by road. 

Stroke treatment is time critical and the problem we encountered was Chris had his stroke while he asleep. As a result, we couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it occurred and this meant he was unable to access treatment to remove the blood clot in his brain.

Chris was initially admitted to the acute care area of the stroke ward at the hospital in Canberra where he received great care from the staff. I rarely left his side during his time in hospital. I was there to advocate for him.

When Chris first came home from hospital seven weeks later, he was suffering from constant pain which made his life miserable. It was incredibly difficult for me to see him like that, he was so restricted in his abilities and missed his independence.

Thankfully that changed when we found an amazing remedial massage therapist. He has had the biggest impact on Chris’ wellbeing since his stroke. Thanks to his help, Chris has significantly less pain in his arm and shoulder and is sleeping much better as a result. He is also regaining more range of motion in his affected arm. Chris is yet to regain full use of his right hand. (He can close his fingers gently on something if he concentrates and just hold on to an item but cannot reopen his hand or pick things up with his hand.)

Mentally, Chris is still working to achieve a positive outlook. Some days are better than others, but I’m determined to be there right beside him and see him recover the best he can. 

Chris and Joanne at the table smiling