Before my problems began in 2013, I lived what I saw as a normal, everyday life. I lived in my own house with my husband, and between us we could do everything for ourselves. The house was my kingdom; it was homely, filled with happy memories, spick and span and I cooked fresh vegetarian Indian food daily in my favourite room, the kitchen. I loved having my children and grandchildren visiting me, telling me that my cooking was the best! I was proud of my children, having watched them grow from two tiny tots when we first came to England from Kenya in 1963, to successful, happy adults with children and lives of their own. I loved England, and had even grown fond of seeing snow falling! I was a bit overweight, had arthritis in my joints, a bit of blood pressure and mild diabetes, but nothing that stopped me from doing what I wanted.
In March 2013, this happy, fulfilling life was turned upside-down in a moment. My first memories are vague: collapsing at home, ambulances, lots of strange people, and then waking in a hospital bed, unable to move, with tubes going into or coming out of me. I was so, so scared, I couldn’t make sense of this strange world, but I knew it wasn’t home, and I was very tired, too tired to talk. All I could do was hold my husband’s or my children’s hands as tight as I could.
I spent a long time in hospital, and gradually the enormity of what the stroke had done to me sank in. My right side was badly affected, making the arm and leg virtually useless. I was always so tired, and I didn’t know when I needed the toilet, which made me feel so ashamed and embarrassed. Some of my sight had gone. Then, to make things worse, I suffered a fall and broke my right ankle. And my voice! It had been taken away from me; I couldn’t talk properly or make myself understood. I would never sing again at my Hindu temple! I felt so lost and lonely and frustrated, and I cried. I cried out of anger and frustration and fear. I’d never wanted to be a burden to anyone, and now I’d become just that. I found it so hard to do what all the kind, lovely nurses and doctors, physiotherapists, and others looking after me on the ward, wanted me to do. I just felt like giving up, but eventually their dedication and the love, encouragement and support from my husband and family worked. More than anything else, I wanted to go home. My family promised me that I would get looked after in my own home and not in a care home; and this finally gave me the motivation to get moving, eating and building up my strength.
When I got back home, it was to a changed place. Still my home, but so different! My family had built a disabled-friendly wet room downstairs just off the kitchen, so that I could wash and toilet without the need to go upstairs. The back room next to the kitchen was converted into a lovely bedroom for my husband and me, with a special bed that I could sit up in by pressing a button! I had a new, fancy armchair in the lounge, and grab rails to help me walk around the house safely. I have cheerful, kind carers coming in to help me wash, dress and take my tablets. At the beginning, they came four times a day, but now they just come in the morning and evening, and I always look forward to their calls and babble away with them. It’s amazing how much they seem to understand what I say now!
I don’t miss not being able to go upstairs any more, but I was very sad about not being able to cook for my husband and family. However, my family told me that I would be given an allowance to help with whatever I thought was important, and would I like to think about paying for someone to come in and cook fresh Indian food for my husband and me? I thought this was a great idea, and we found a lovely lady on our road who could do this. She’s become a great friend, and always involves me in supervising her cooking; she says she has a lot to learn from me, but I think she was a pretty good cook to start with!
But, maybe the most unexpected and my favourite new thing is the little iPad that my family bought me when I came out of hospital. I was worried that I’d not be able to stay in touch with my family and see them very often; all my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who mean so much to me, live so far away, in houses that aren’t suitable for me any more. The iPad was a mystery to me initially; how would this small, strange machine change all this? Then, once it was set up and explained to me, I realised that it was like telephoning someone, but being able to see them at the same time, anywhere in the world! Now, my family FaceTime me every day, especially my eldest granddaughter, so that she can put my two beautiful great-grandchildren on; I spend ages each day watching them playing and talking to me. I feel like they’re playing in the same room as me, and my spirits always lift whenever they or anyone else dear to me FaceTimes and brings their life into mine. This is even more important for me because my speech problems stop me from talking to people on the phone.
My life can never be as it was before March 2013, but, those changes that were so catastrophic and seemed insurmountable to begin with, have been made manageable. Most importantly, I’ve been helped and supported to live the rest of my days in my own home, surrounded by family and friends, as I so desired and wished. I no longer feel a burden, but still loved, wanted and valued.