Learning to Sit

 As I lay in my hospital bed, tired distraught and frightened there was no time it seemed for even a fitful sleep. Almost the whole night I was looking at my useless left arm and useless left leg wondering if I was ever going to work or even walk again. Everything I took for granted had now been thrown into doubt. I had tried to read but the task was very difficult and I soon dissolved into tears as the thought of a life without even reading beckoned. Sleep seemed elusive as I mulled over the thought that I would have to mentally say goodbye to almost everything I had known.  However I must have got some shut eye as I was wakened by the nurses bringing breakfast at 7.00 am. Barely had I had time to digest  that, when the Physiotherapists arrived. Now for anyone suffering from a stroke, especially one as severe as mine, physical therapy is essential as soon as possible. There first task was to assess the damage and tell me what I needed to do, which amounted to ‘keep trying to move everything’. That was then followed by me being hoisted out of bed and plonked into a special chair to make sure I could sit up. My Physio was friendly and firm. In addition to that she was honest and told me that the more I do in the early days the more movement and control will return. It’s hard explaining to people who’ve never experienced it how it feels to learn how to sit in a chair again. However after a stroke almost eevrything has to be relearnt and neural pathways have to be rebuilt. So even sitting in a chair required a huge effort. After managing that and a confidence boosting motivational talk I was then left to my own devices.  There was a TV screen in the hospital and for a charge you could watch it. I had been gifted a free card and at around 2.00pm, turned it on. The channels were pretty dull but it did have channel 4. The film on that afternoon was ‘Reach For The Sky’  I know it’s cheesy but the moment that Douglas Bader throws away his walking sticks and says’ I will walk on my own’ was a life changer for me. At that moment I decided that I was going to walk out of this hospital as soon as I could and get on with the rest of my life.

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Bad Start

One of the things you need as a writer is time. Time to think and time to process that into something intelligible. But the real thing that ties it all together is a reason to do it in the first place. In 2008 I was given the time and I was most definitely given a reason. I had a stroke. A massive and debilitating attack on my brain that has left me debilitated and for a short time completely paralysed down my left side. A few months ago I tried to write a poem about my first reactions when I first realised something was wrong.

Click

Click.

 

Random Click.

A Switch.

click 

in my head.

No pain.

Numb.

Spreading.

 walk.

Try to talk.

Tingle.

Tips of the fingers.

panic

Rising panic.

Don’t panic.

Easy to say.

Don’t let them see you

Don’t cry.

What  wrong?

What’s happening?

Leg not working

Arm not working.

Go to the door

Call someone.

Idiot, don’t panic.

Just tingling,

weird feelings of drifting.

Followed by panic.

 Don’t let them see you panic.

The boss, can’t make out a thing she’s saying.

Eventually she has to ask.

‘Are you OK?’

I want to lie. Say ‘yeah Ok.’

I Want the panic to subside.

Let the numbness slip away.

Losing focus, losing feeling, losing hope.

Started with a switch.

click.

Random click, just a click.

Fuck.

Scared now. Have to answer boss.

‘Not feeling great.’

‘What’s the matter?’

Tears come now.

Appraisal over.

Ambulance requested.

Oh God, the fear starts. Can’t hold back the panic.

Losing control, losing hope.

Tears gush

cup of tea.

Blue lights come

The medics barks into a radio.

‘No movement  left arm.’

‘No movement  left leg.’

‘No movement left hand.’

Loaded in ambulance

Blood Pressure 190 over 120.

Sirens.

Casualty

Stroke.

Click.

Random click.

When all the fuss had stopped and a kindly doctor actually told me what was going on, I realised that my life would change forever. At that point I was in a ward with a great many people and all of them quiet. All of my thoughts were dark and I was desperately trying to keep it together. There was a sense of real fear then, bone chilling fear.

I did not know that under four years later I would be on the verge of publishing a novel.  If you had said that to me on the night of the 8th of June 2008, my first in hospital, I would have just cried and said you were mad.

I month to pubication

Yesterday I learnt that my first novel Burger Bar Dad will be published as an ebook on the 28th May 2012. So after all the writing, editing, anxiety and telephone calls to my brilliant publisher, the book goes on sale. It has been a terrific adventure and over the next few weeks I will be writing the story of how it all came about. However before we do all that just need to make some acknowledgements….

I would like to thank the following for making Burger Bar Dad a reality: Nick Foot for his honesty and encouragement, Trevor Johnston and Lorraine for the spur to finish. Also I need to mention Carlo Gebbler and my friends at the Fermanagh Creative Writers Group who first gave me the idea I could write well. Then there is Séamas Mac Annaidh who read my first jottings and told me to write more. Also Jay, Connor and the other young people from FUEL

In addition to these I must include Jon Priest as his skills are essential to this success and obviously Mark, Maria, Richard and everyone at M P Publishing, who have been brilliant right from the start of this adventure. There is also a need to thank Tony Viney, Ken Ramsey, Wayne Hardman and Douglas for their help and for laughing at my jokes, as well as Hugh Mannix who never stopped telling me I could do this.