Having a stroke really focuses the mind.
It makes you realise how much your loved ones mean to you.
It makes you realise that life is too short to fuck around.
And it makes you realise just how good bacon tastes.
I had a stroke a couple of months ago – nothing too major, just one of those ‘wake-up calls’. A nasty wake-up call admittedly, like when you’ve accidentally set your alarm clock to Heart FM.
On a Wednesday evening in late June I got up from my sofa to go to bed and couldn’t walk straight. Now this is not necessarily unusual for me, although it’s an occurrence that usually happens towards the weekend, when too much gin and/or Brew Dog have been consumed.
Also, the left side of my face was numb. I went to bed, expecting to wake up fine and dandy.
I didn’t. I mean, obviously I did wake up – if I hadn’t that would probably been quite bad – but I didn’t wake up fine and dandy. I still couldn’t feel the left side of my face, and every time I tried to walk I pulled to the left, like a car with a near side front puncture. So I did what every sensible overweight middle-aged bloke would do.
I drove 35 miles to work.
Well, I thought it would just ‘go off’. When I got to work, it hadn’t. I stopped fooling myself and knew I’d had a stroke. But it was then I also realised my biggest mistake. I was in Bedford. The best hospital in the country was in Cambridge, in a direction I had driven 35 miles away from.
Now we all know that all NHS hospitals are staffed by amazingly dedicated and skilled people whose expertise mean that it doesn’t matter where you are in the country you will get first class care whichever facility you are admitted to. You’ve probably gauged by now that I wasn’t thinking very clearly at that stage, and I was determined that, if I was to be cured, it would be in Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital. I knew Addenbrooke’s; I’d been treated for minor ailments there before, and they had looked after my family through some pretty tough times. I knew nothing of ‘Bedford Hospital’, but it just didn’t sound right. I pictured an old building that, in a previous life, had been a lunatic asylum or leprosy clinic, with big wooden doors and doctors attacking you with syringes bigger than a baby’s arm.
So, naturally, I drove 35 miles back home.
I then called 111 and they arranged to send an ambulance. But, where was the ambulance coming from? Sometimes, because of our location (in Cambridgeshire with a Hertfordshire postcode), they send help from Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.
Lister. Like ‘Listeria’.
What to do? Maybe if I drove towards Cambridge, pulled into a lay-by and called again I could guarantee my admission to Addenbrooke’s. All this wasn’t helping my blood pressure, and my Fitbit – yes, I’ve got a Fitbit, wanna make something of it? – had stopped recording my pulse rate, presumably not used to the challenge of such high digits.
I opened the door to the paramedics. “Where are you based?” ‘Upon arrival, patient seemed confused’. “Which hospital?”. “Addenbrooke’s, sir.” ‘Patient calmed down quickly and was fully responsive.’
Needless to say from then on I’ve received some superb NHS care. I’ve had more scans than a successful IVF mother, and treatment that couldn’t be bettered anywhere in the world. My family have, naturally, been fantastic.
When the paramedics assessed me they asked the obvious questions about my drinking, eating and exercise habits. I was honest with them. Just as we were leaving for the hospital one of them pointed to a picture of my granddaughter on our wall, looked at me, and simply said, “Lifestyle change, mate.”
I’ve taken the patronising git’s advice.
I’ve cut back on alcohol, processed food, cheese and crisps. I’ve lost over 20 pounds and feel pretty good. It’s the cheese I miss the most, but the consultant I saw early in the week reminded me that life was for living, all things in moderation etc. In other words, don’t be a boring bastard and go and get a large piece of Applewood Smoked. That’s how I read it, anyway.
And, as a treat, I’ve just eaten my first bacon for 7 weeks.
So all’s well, considering.
If I only could kick the heroin habit………….