I have a photo taken the day before Ray had his major stroke in April 1999. We were at a convention so it is a photo of 9 happy couples from our Apex40 Club who had just had two days of fun together. All dressed in our best before the dinner on Sunday night. 18 happy smiling faces.
I also have photos of the breakfast in the park the following morning, hours before Ray's stroke. Most people look tired but Ray looks tired and gray faced. We had mostly packed up our motel room and were due to vacate at the end of the picnic breakfast. Then it was an eight hour drive back to our planned overnight stopover and another ten hours drive to reach home. Ray said he was not looking forward to the drive. But as we still had another couple of days vacation I said he would have some time to catch up on his sleep so he would be okay.
That morning he seemed to have lost his appetite and just picked at his food. I laughed and joked with the rest of our group but he didn't get up, just sat and stared around him. On the way back to the motel he suddenly started to lean on me. I thought it was a joke and told him to behave and walk on his own two feet. When I realised he wasn't joking I supported him back to the motel.
Why didn't we realise he was having a stroke? Probably because he was a diabetic and I knew he had had a lot of sugary foods the night before, so we said it was a sugar high. I got him to lay down and when our friends slowly returned told them to leave without us as Ray was not feeling well. A couple suggested going to a doctor before we left town which seemed a good idea. Our local hostess said she would take us to her doctor.
When Ray's condition seemed to be getting worse not better we decided the local hospital's Emergency rooms would be better. And that is how he ended up in Bendigo Hospital, one of the best hospitals in Victoria and one I am very grateful to. Ray never walked back out of there, never drove home. Life as we knew it had changed forever. When he came home to our local area it was by air ambulance. When he came back to our house it was in a wheelchair. He had spent four and a half months in hospital and the rehabilitation unit.
But he is one of the lucky ones. Three of the happy faces in the photo have died, two women of cancer, one of toxic shock. One fellow had a stroke early this year and is now back in hospital with severe infection caused by leg ulcers, he may have to have the leg removed. Another fellow has recently had a heart bypass and several others have health problems. I guess that is how it is as the years go by. No-one lives a charmed life and some folk just live longer than others.
For us there has been a lot happened since then, more strokes, the hip break in 2000, the pelvic fractures and hip joint crack this year which hospitalised Ray for eight weeks. And I guess there is more of life's struggles to come. In the words of an old song: "into each life some rain must fall, but too much has fallen in mine (ours)." But hey! we are survivors and along with the thirteen others of the 18 smiling faces in my photos, let's hope that is the case for many years to come.