The Anatomy Of A Stroke [Week 3]

I took this photo about an hour after he came home from hospital today. His 79th birthday. All things considered, an extremely welcome present.

Within 5 minutes of getting home my wife somewhat incredulously caught him half way up a step ladder into the loft, “There’s another walking stick up here somewhere…” Yeah, well, we’ll be sure to get it down for you and put it on the stretcher when they take off in another ambulance after you’ve broken your neck! Unbelievable.

Dad continued to make steady physical progress throughout the first week of 2012, but it seems clear that the autonomic rewiring has finished and now it will be down to the daily visits of the physiotherapists [for 6 weeks] and his own motivation to reinforce and strengthen those newly constructed neural pathways.

Here you can see how his left hand is attempting match his right but, despite immense effort on his part, stubbornly refuses to comply; the arm and hand tiring quickly as the tension of the movement slowly evaporates. The index finger is working much more effectively now, in tandem with his thumb, but the second, third and fourth fingers currently remain ‘mostly asleep’. Dad often reports the sensation of holding something which isn’t there. [Er, like a step ladder?!]

During the week he had another scan of his neck which showed severe stenosis of his right carotid artery. On the plus side, this is virtually guaranteed as the cause of his stroke, but with his rating at 70-75%, means he will need to return to hospital on Wednesday for a carotid endarterectomy. Think: your drains need rodding to clear a blockage, then apply that image to the artery in your neck.

Obviously, as with any operation, there’s a risk – of death and/or of a second stroke [between 1-5%] – but it will reduce the likelihood of a second stroke occurring within three years, essentially a daily living form of Russian roulette, by 33%. So, it’s a bit of a, umm, no-brainer.

Psychologically, dad’s currently dealing with the idea of the operation, but is otherwise in good spirits and very happy to be out of the acute ward. Two guys sadly died during the week and, as we were leaving, another is now on permanent oxygen and fading. When we take a look around us, the reality of dad’s progress in less than three weeks since admission is truly blessed and remarkable.

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