‘The day I had my stroke’
Jenny Sheldon features as a memoirist in the latest Writing of the Week choice. Her piece titled ‘The day I had my stroke’ is worth reading – for her clear determination and then triumph in regaining so much of her reasoning and abilities in verbal and written expression – along with the admiration of those who recognise and admire her fighting spirit.
It was the first class of the day: double Drama Year 10, a lovely class. I was getting a warm-up started when I suddenly lost control. I developed spasms in my right hand, and then I lost control over my body. It was like I had no will of my own. I seemed to have little control over my limbs; my right hand seemed to spasm, and then it stopped.
I must have looked bad because the students made me sit down. I looked out at a sea of concerned faces. I made light of it – it was nothing. Somebody said, ‘Miss, you’re not all right!’ – and then help came in the form of the school office lady, who was a first aid officer. She led me down the stairs and called my husband. I was still making light of it. I must have looked bad, because someone called an ambulance, and my head teacher arrived to see me.
I remember two ambulance officers, and they were doing all sorts of things, including asking my name. As they carried me out, I saw children staring at me. I remember the journey to hospital. I was confused and worried and frightened. What was happening?
I was rushed in straight away and had a series of tests. The man in charge was looking in my eyes and saying, ‘What is your name?’ I answered him with, ‘Jennifer Sheldon’. I didn’t say my new married name: ‘Jennifer Pont’. But I quickly corrected myself.
I was told I’d had a stroke, but that I was lucky. The hospital would monitor me overnight. I wanted to go home straight away and argued with them but they were adamant and I stayed. Then it happened that night: I had a massive stroke. I couldn’t move on the right side and I couldn’t speak.
And if you think that this is a sob story you’re wrong. It is about my battle with rehabilitation, and how I can be the best that I can be.
Anyway, I was confused and frightened: I couldn’t speak or move. Again, I wondered what was happening to me. My confusion multiplied. How did I get here? It was surreal. I’d had a massive stroke on the left side, so no wonder I was bewildered. I was able to say ‘Yes,’ and ‘I don’t think so,’ and that was all. I was able to read but with little comprehension. I could understand words individually but couldn’t follow a whole idea.
I was paralysed on the right side: I couldn’t move anything on that side; my leg and arm were frozen. Why couldn’t I move my limbs on that side? And why couldn’t I speak? I was thinking thoughts but I couldn’t express them.
When my husband Paul arrived I couldn’t say anything to him. I tried to. I wanted to reassure him that I was all right but I couldn’t! When Mum and Dad came, they were shocked too. But I was pleased and relieved to see them.
And I was determined to get better.
Photo credit Ferdinando Manzo.