Living with a stroke at 41… A survivors story!


Today’s guest writer is Paul McLean.  Batting way above his league he married one of my work colleagues in the early naughties.  Since that point I have enjoyed his friendship and outlook on life.
Paul’s life journey over the last few years has been a roller coaster of a ride and one can take much learning from it. Take it away Paul…
One Saturday morning, the 18th June 2016, I was with my wife chatting about
stories, not book stuff, but videos that can be used to tell a story quick. I
was talking about Casey Niestat video he made in Belfast and was turning my
body to pick up my phone from the window sill to show it.
I noticed that I couldn’t move my right hand… I was trying to show my wife,
Suzanne, that I couldn’t lift my hand to point. I tried to speak, but she was
reading and didn’t see what happened. Thankfully, she noticed that my face had
drooped and my speech was slurred. In my head I was speaking perfectly clearly,
but she couldn’t understand. She rang an ambulance, and the ambulance called
told her to try the FAST setup… yup! I had a stroke.I was rushed to Royal Victoria hospital where I had a revolutionary treatment
to remove a blood clot from my brain, a thrombectomy. I was incredibly
fortunate, because normally this procedure isn’t available on a Saturday,
however, the neurologist just so happened to be in the hospital to pick something
up. It was a bit of a miracle!  The doctors told my wife there was about a
10% chance I’d survive, but thankfully I’m here to tell my story.

In the past year and a half, rehabilitation has been a massive part of where I
am now. Speech and language therapy still has to be done everyday. JK Rowling
and Stephen Fry were a massive part of how I can read better, but if it hadnt
of been for an SLT lady called Jane Allen, I would be useless. Talking,
conversations, and thinking were from her learning, and I still thank God for
her existence. So, yeah, I can read.
Today, do you know what I miss the most? Reading. Yes, texts and tweets are
okay, I can handle them, but a chapter of a book now hurts my brain, and at the
end, I have forgotten parts of it. GAH! One book a day was my normal world.
Now, maybe a chapter a week, if I’m on fire; not the usual for my current
brain. Fatigue is my nemesis now. My brain is like a three year old; too much
reading and thinking makes Jack a knackered boy.
Being a 41 stroke survivor wasn’t part of my plan. Language was my job. I like
to think it still is, but I have lost so much, and I don’t always know how to
get it back. Aphasia has destroyed my love for language and I miss it. An ex
actor and English teacher without language is, well, pointless, which is how,
for now, I seem to be!
Aphasia is a communication languages disability; reading and writing and
speaking are all affected by it. And, for some people, it hinders their
understanding of what others are reading or saying. It’s like of a random
dyslexic syndrome cause by a brain injury, traumatic or other ways, like a
stroke. For me, the best way for me to explain it is that my brain is holding
my words hostage, and I can’t negotiate the release, it has those words too!
Writing this is a piece of art. Not just splashing the paint on a canvas, more
like a play; moving the players around the page to create a manuscript. And to
make that happen, I need patience. Probably something we all need.
Oh, and if you are wondering how I created this piece, speaking to my iPhone to
type up what I say, send it to a computer and getting it to read it back to me,
so I don’t make mistakes, and if my brain has find the mistake if it’s there!
Other than that, I will work on patience today! The mistakes can wait…And so can the reading!

Bio: Paul McLean was an actor, teacher and philosopher.
Now, at 41, Paul still tells lies, but as a stroke survivor, he is hoping to
turn the ‘was’ to an ‘is’ and make the last one real.


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