"Best first step"

20 July 2001, I was driving home from a busy week at work on a Friday. I had cleared the mailbox and was heading home to Mt Albert. At the traffic lights at the top of Franklin Road my right hand and foot started going numb. The lights turned green; I think I'd better find a place to pull over and seek help.

I drove up Ponsonby Road to Williamson Ave where I found a car park. Control over my right leg and hand was fading! I just needed to walk over to the shop to get help. Whoops, I fell out of the car onto the road SPLAT!!! What? Now I can't walk? A passing taxi driver stopped and helped me back into my vehicle and called for an Ambulance. Incredible help really.

After two weeks in hospital I was transferred to Rehab Plus in Mt Albert where a motorised wheelchair was offered. You've got to be joking! I wanted to learn to push my self around, strengthen my leg and get my feet back working together! I had to learn to walk ASAP!

I couldn't feel anything in my right side. Couldn't... needed help. Speech was limited! About three weeks post stroke depression hit. That was bad. Really bad. I had always been a happy person. Thank goodness for visiting friends. And they re-visited me...

I hated being this way. I felt useless. Can I get back to normal? Well that was my aim from the start.

Strength to walk (or stagger) improved. In the rehab unit I was supposed to get from the bed to the toilet supervised. Luckily this was achieved safely solo.

Tiredness was a major problem. I slept day and night apart from the regular physio and OT sessions and any other activity the unit could dream up. Thank goodness for this help. I wanted to get home. My cat was waiting for me.

Three months in Rehab Plus, followed by three months as an outpatient. How things had changed. It was a good thing the weather improved. Walking was fun. People I was in hospital with at the rehab centre decided to start a regular walking group. We called ourselves "The Rehab Rebels" - Ha Ha Ha Ha, Staying Alive, Staying Alive — the Bee Gees.

Get back to normal? How feasible was that? Would my tiredness prevent me from getting a normal job?  Would a manager take on staff who needed two or three hours to sleep in the middle of the day? Working for someone didn't really seem an option.

My numb right side was gaining a vague sense of feeling. Start a business? Is this normal? I contacted Workbridge and got more help than I expected. Then on to a business course through Work and Income. Best first step.

As a graphic designer and photographer, a greeting card business was born. My 50th birthday rolled past. Now nearly four years post stroke my driving endurance has improved from half an hour to over three hours to visit the card display stand in Rotorua.

My aim was to get back to normal. Will this ever be feasible? I don't know. Things are just different. It has been tough but it has done so much for my self esteem; much more than I 'would have believed.

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Stroke devastates lives. 
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