Posted by: dlip | January 19, 2008

The stroke and beyond

I have, on occasion, tried to compare the pain and discomfort of a stroke with its aftermath. Mind you, the comparison is not quite fair, since I was not conscious most of the time during the stroke and immediately afterwards. Whereas the aftermath, that is the recovery period, is only too deeply imprinted on my brain and conscious being. The stroke: All I can recollect is that I was on the point of being discharged from hospital – I had earlier been admitted for other ailments – and since I had lost a lot of weight I wanted to show off my weight loss from 84kgs to a delightful 73kgs. As soon as I put my foot on the weighing scale an intense and excruciating pain coursed through my left leg and the – oblivion; a bottomless pit of dark, terrifying nothingness.  

The following are images I have of being in the ICU, most probably hallucinatory; I’m not sure. There are marauding gangs of nurses/ interns surrounding me, force-feeding me and laughing deliriously. It was, to say the least, a frightening scene from the deepest circle of Hell.    As was gleaned from my files, there was a massive haemorrhage in the brain due to high blood pressure. This in turn caused severe lesions in the brain. The result was curtailment of bodily functions and limitation of arm and limb movements as well as defects in my vision and speech.  

The aftermath: the only phrase that can come close to describing my initial reaction, when I reached a state of consciousness is: TOTAL DISORIENTATION in all dimensions of time, space and physical surroundings.   I did not know who I was, where I was and how I came to be there. I had the impression that I was in Baroda which had been recreated as Manipal and that both localities were co-existing in my mind, though at different sites. They were complete with identical features – the house, the roads, the people. It was as if the entire city of Baroda had been transposed on Manipal. These were of course impressions of my confused mind.   My first task was to successfully rearrange myself to the new situation which I found tremendously difficult. While the cast had not changed, the actors had metamorphosed. This brought about an entirely new landscape. I found I had to readjust myself to this new and disturbing scene. It was a monstrously large and difficult task.   My own capabilities and faculties had been reduced considerably. For example my speech was totally distorted and I was difficult to understand. My left hand and arm hung on my left side – a limp and useless appendage without any life of its own. The left side of my vision was gone. In practical terms this meant I could not see items on my left. While eating I could not see food on the left side of my plate. If I met a person and he extended his right arm to shake my hand I was not aware of his right arm.    

There was a constant pain in my left arm that could only be dealt with something called “mobilization”. This entailed brisk and vigorous pumping of the arm. Up and down, up and down. This, I felt rendered my left arm even more useless. My life had become a series of pain.  

My sense of balance was shot to hell. I found it difficult to either sit or stand without falling down. When I first went to the physiotherapists and they told me they were going to teach me how to sit and stand, I thought they were joking and I refused to take them seriously.   Obviously I couldn’t return to work. I had already officially retired in 2005 as Vice Principal of the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration. At that time they had requested, and I had agreed, to an extension until March 2007.Then, just before “the stroke” in December 2006, the company had offered me yet another extension to 2009. I had declined this as I was at last looking forward to returning to my home in Gurgaon in north India and hanging up my pen and laptop or whatever it is that Vice Principals do when they call it a day. All in all it was a harrowing experience. But, as I was soon to learn, this was just the beginning. However, even this, the darkest of clouds had a silver lining. Mine was the realization that the wealth of a man is not measured in terms of the number of cows or goats he possesses, nor on the size of his bank balance, but in the love and support of family and friends and well-wishers which provided a motive for my return. 

My advice: Be careful about your diet and food intake – this is coming from a guy who ate nothing but red meat and had three large drinks every day has to be serious. Smoking is also a big no-no; like they said, ‘a cigarette is a piece of paper with a fire at one end and a fool at the other’.

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Responses

  1. I am forty years old and often worry about my cardiac condition. Did you have any specific condition that in retrospect you should have paid attention to. I have seen ads that suggest, I should pay attention to numbness if my arms etc. Any signs you think I should look out for…

  2. This is Santosh Benjamin…
    I knew you from church,Mr Singha as a person with a wonderful sense of humor and an allround nice person. The news of the stroke came to me when i was at work one day and then i saw you before you went in for surgery the 1st time. From waiting outside theater to sitting in the room with others from church, i felt a range of emotions.
    The rehabilitaion after surgery was difficult with further surgery and physiotherapy interspersed.
    I can recall no greater joy during my final year as a post-graduate than coming to see you in the evenings. You retained your razor sharp wit and i often left your room chuckling to myself. The family support that you have is something to be cherished and applauded. I really got close to your entire family as time went on and was very sad when i heard that you all were leaving Manipal. I havent been in touch as much as i would have liked to but you all are always in my heart and in my prayers. I really like reading your posts on the blog.Looking forward to the next one.

  3. To Sundip Agarwal
    I am sorry it has taken this long to respond, but I am writing this blog with help from my sister I tell her/e-mail her (with help from my daughter) and then she posts my responses. So to all visitors, please bear with us. No, as far as I was concerned there were no warning signs. A stroke is like a falcon that strikes almost without warning. But, once past 35 or 40 years of age, the experts say, we should keep an eye on our blood pressure. If there is a family history of stroke, even more so. Reduce or eliminate your intake of red meat, extra salt and alcohol. Exercise or find some way to reduce stress. And have a regular medical check up. I wish you good health.
    Dalip

  4. from one who has known you and has childhood memories associated with that famous wit….after reading this, I needed a 20 minute lie down to sort out my emotional reaction to the horror of what you have been through. Wept with the unfairness of why such a thing should happen to you…how much you have suffered…then I dwelt upon how much courage you have shown in dealing with this crippling blow and having seen you progress slowly but steadily, gaining in bodily strength,having perfectly lucid thought and speech..Dwelt upon how much sheer will power, grit and a sense of humour have helped you… how you walked up the stairs in Calcutta…How your mind stays free and strong with a wit that is your strongest ally….felt intensely proud of you. Have decided to change to a healthier lifestyle as well.. while I can.
    I marvel at the way your family has rallied around you with support that must reflect their upbringing. God bless them!
    Your spirit is strong and having seen you become stronger by the day, I know that it is only a matter of time before you are dancing once again. Keep writing.
    I am proud of you and being related to you, cuz!


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