OK, here’s one from the first few I posted on Myspace. It’s not lazy plagiarism, honest. It’s important information that explains something about who I am today.
Early in the afternoon of the 13th January, 2001, my brain exploded. It wasn’t a big enough explosion to crack open my skull, but it did do a bit of damage.
It had been a normal Saturday. I’d been living in my new house for two months (my girlfriend hadn’t moved in), and was just doing a little DIY. (It was putting up a new light or something. I can’t actually remember.) I remember coming downstairs, when suddenly I felt a strong buzzing sensation down the right side of my face. Before I could really react to that, the whole right side of my body just “switched off” and I fell to the floor.
I lay there for a moment, thinking “This is odd,” before I tried to get up again. The whole right side of my body was paralysed, but I managed to get upright and hop (yes, hop) to the living room where I could lie down on the sofa. I hoped that whatever had happened to me would wear off, but after a while I thought I’d better check in with somebody and possibly get some help.
I phoned my parents, and that was the point where I discovered that I couldn’t speak properly. Hardly at all, in fact. But I got the message across. They drove down, which took about another half hour, took one look at me and phoned for an ambulance.
The ambulance arrived very promptly and they loaded me in and started me on bottled oxygen. I discovered afterwards that the oxygen may well have been the most important factor in minimising the brain damage. The two paramedics decided to take me to Lagan Valley hospital rather than Craigavon. The two hospitals were about the same distance away, but they told me that Lagan Valley was smaller and more friendly. It was a good decision.
There was a moment’s black comedy when the ambulance got lost on the remote rural roads, and I had to sit up in the back and give directions, but we arrived at the hospital and I was wheeled in. I remember a stunningly beautiful young doctor came over to my trolley and stroked my cheek. “Hi,” she breathed, “I’m Claire, and I’m going to look after you.”
“You can look after me all you want,” I thought, but I didn’t say anything, ’cause that would have been corny. Also, my mouth wasn’t working.
I was lifted into a hospital bed and they did a few basic checks, such as eye dilation and tracking, and speaking. No, I still couldn’t speak properly. I sounded like someone very, very drunk. Claire’s boss, the consultant, came to see me, and what I thought was interesting was that she sent me for a brain scan even though he didn’t think it was worth it.
The funniest part of the whole experience was after my scan, when the radiologist came out and told me “Well, we’ve done the brain scan and we can’t find anything.” I thought, “Damn. I’m sure I had it when I came in here.”
I started to be able to move my right arm and leg after a day or so. Sensation returned more slowly, and co-ordination more slowly still. I was out of hospital in three days, and back to work in a month (I got bored) but it was a full six months before I was co-ordinated enough to carry a full glass of water, for example.
During the time I was in hospital, my speech became less slurred, but for a while I had the sensation of not quite being able to remember the word I was trying to say. For many months afterwards, I had severe headaches, something I’d never been troubled with before, but these evenally eased off too.
Of the patients who survive the initial incident like this, 30% suffer another one and die during the first year. After that first year, they’re no more likely to die than anyone else. I made it to 2002, and I’m still alive today.