I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the above words spoken when something unexpected has happened but I heard it more often recently because at the beginning of September I had a stroke. The charity The Stroke Association have Four letters to help people if they suspect someone is having a stroke FAST which not only means fast action is necessary but F for facial weakness, A for arm weakness, S for speech problems and T for time to call 999 or to get the victim to hospital right away. I was fortunate in that I was at home with my husband and two grown up sons and I had some signs- the lower right side of my face was dragged down and my husband said I was talking gobble de kook. I just thought I was talking slowly. So he and Son no 2 wasted no time driving me to Fazakerley hospital straightaway. I saw a doctor immediately and then a stroke specialist, I had a brain scan, as well as a deep scan on my neck, as well as a chest x-ray and a heart monitor thingy, this after various tests to check the strength in my arms and legs. During my time in the hospital I had my pressure, temperature monitored regularly and had blood tests. I was fortunate in that I only had a slight weakness in my right arm and I was able to talk almost normal by then but the stroke had affected my swallow muscles. I was admitted and in a short while was taken up to Ward 33. I had a room to myself off the main ward which surprised me, with a toilet and shower off it, as well as a television in a straight line with the bed. Maybe this was because the main ward was full up.
Anyway, I can’t fault the care and attention I received including the meals I was served, This despite I could only eat food that could be mashed with a fork or served in gravy, sauces or custard or yoghurt. Much is written and said about the National Health and of course, no organisation is without its faults but I consider we are so blessed in our country having such a health service.
During my life as a writer I have not only had to research certain illnesses but needed to know the names and situations of hospitals in Liverpool and various other places. I also had to be certain that they existed during the period the book was set. Fortunately I remember a little about life before the Health Service although I was only a small child at the time. I also have used stories my mother and mother-in-law told me. E.g. my eldest brother, Ron, caught scarlet fever when he was only a toddler and was taken to the fever hospital. My mother had to step in a bowl of disinfectant before she could approach him but was not allowed to get really close to him to give him a hug but could only talk to him from behind a curtain soaked in disinfectant. My brother lost his hearing in one ear as a result of the scarlet fever.
Interestingly my son’s best friend since primary school lost his hearing in one ear recently and was sent for a brain scan. IAvailat was discovered that he had suffered a mini stroke and it was that which had caused the deafness.
I was in hospital for five days and since being home I have had visits from the speech therapist and an occupational therapist, as well as a volunteer from the Stroke Association. I have kept up with facial exercises for my swallow muscles and my son who has done acting but now has his heart set on being a film director/ writer put links to voice training exercises on my computer. My swallow muscles are now strong enough for me to eat a normal diet but having discussing my writing with the occupational therapist, we came to the conclusion that it would be sensible for me to take a break and not begin work on the next novel for a couple of months. Fortunately I had finished the novel I had been working on before my stroke. The thing is that my brain is going to be busy repairing itself for a while and needs all the help it can get from me, so I need also to rest and relax.
One of the ways I relax is by going to a couple of meetings the Stroke Association organise in Crosby and Orrell. One is a music meeting where we sing a mixture of songs which include a fair number from the fifties and sixties, good for strengthening the voice and face muscles. The other meeting we have quizzes, the kind where you have to recognise and name faces of famous people and also tunes, good for the memory. Both meetings are fun and one is meeting other members of what I call the SS, STROKE SURVIVORS. A writer’s working life is a solitary one, so it has proved good for me to get out and meet people I wouldn’t meet normally and I’m finding it interesting as a novelist because I’m spotting characteristics that I can use in my writing, not that I put real people in my books, too risky, bit the odd interesting characteristic can colour my writing.
Well, I think that’s all for now as I can’t type as quick as I used to be able to.
Please check my new website: www.junefrancis.com for news of my books being issued next year .
Available now: A DAUGHER’S CHOICE pb EBURY PRESS
LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND hb SEVERN HOUSE’