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Ray's 20 year stroke anniversary



On the 9th of December 1990 my husband Ray had a stroke. It was the beginning of the journey we are still on 20 years and counting.


It was the beginning of a two week vacation. We had spent a couple of days traveling north to visit Ray’s brother. We had Trevor with us, Trevor was 15 at the time, our last one at school and so we said he could get out of school a couple of weeks early to come with us.


The morning after we arrived Ray’s brother asked him if he could repay a favour for him. A friend who had helped with some renovations wanted a cubby house built for his daughters as a Christmas present so Les had said that his brother Ray, being a carpenter, would build one for him. So they set off to first measure up the project and then drive to town to get supplies.


The day was hot and humid and in those days no-one gave dehydration a thought. I was home at the BIL’s place and answered the phone when it rang just after lunch. The voice said she wanted to speak to: “Mrs Wilkinson from New South Wales.” I said that was me. She said: “Find a chair dear I need to tell you something”. Then she told me my 48 year old fit husband had had a stroke and was currently on his way to hospital in an ambulance.


I thought she meant sunstroke and asked her if she did. She said: “No, it was the real thing.” and that was the first I ever knew that someone young and fit could have a stroke. When my BIL arrived home he said we should go to the hospital to fill in forms etc. It was a 45 minute drive and seemed to last twice that. We finally arrived and I found Ray looking much as usual but slightly lopsided in the face and he seemed to be having trouble with his left hand. The next news that astounded me was that he was a diabetic!


And so Ray was in hospital for just six days while they adjusted his diet, gave him some diabetic medication, showed me how to check blood sugars. Then they discharged him to come back home to our own state to our own doctor for advice on what to do next. It is unbelievable looking back that because each state was funded differently I was not allowed to even bring back the initial xrays and CT scans.


Our own doctor was shocked. Ray was too young, was fit, not overweight, maybe overworked and of course should have been relaxing on his holiday, not working off a debt for someone else! So it was put down to dehydration, a thickening of the blood and undiagnosed Ray and the medication for diabetes etc was all that was needed.


Ray actually went back to work six months after that. He was able to walk properly and use both hands. That was due to working with the Commonwealth Rehab unit operating especially so that people like Ray with slight strokes, or who had survived car accidents who were still young could get some help in returning to the full time work force. And Ray did! He actually returned to work for 8 ½ years.


But of course he had not changed his behaviour. Indeed there was never a suggestion that he had to do so. The stroke, unexplained, was supposedly a one-off that would never be repeated. The behaviour, working too hard, missing meals, not drinking enough water in hot times would later come against him again. But for now the doctors and specialists who had seen him said: “It’s over, you are well, go back to work.”


Which did not prepare us for the two strokes in 1999, the one in 2001 or the one in 2005.


And I became a caregiver in a sense right back then as Ray had massive fatigue issues and would come home from work, drop into a chair and be asleep in seconds, he also slept a lot at weekends. So I took over a lot of things he had been doing. I also went back to studies and got an office management certificate, a new piece of paper to help me get a job. My thinking was that if it happened again Ray could stay at home and I would be the breadwinner.


Neither of us knew how debilitating Ray’s two strokes in 1999 would be and that it would retire us both, me to look after him. How different is a slight stroke from those that leave deep and serious brain damage. They can change your whole life and the lives of families and friends and all who are in contact with the family concerned.


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It definitely has been a long, tough road for the two of you. It's sad that Drs. didn't explain that often times having had one stroke or being diabetic can be a pre-cursor to a major stroke later on.


At age 56, Gary had a series of undiagnosed TIAs over a 2-3 month period prior to his massive stroke that left him totally debilitated. It's difficult when I think back to those "dizzy spells" and wonder if he had been properly diagnosed and put on blood thinners, whether he would have been able to return to work or continued to live a normal life. But it is what it is and we deal with it as best we can.


Twenty years is a long time ago, but I know when you look back on that first stroke, it's as if it happened yesterday and you wonder where did all those years go? God gave you strength to endure and continues to hold you up through all of the struggles in dealing now with the dementia on top of the other deficits, and He will continue to be there for you along with all your stroke support friends here.


You are seriously overdue for a long vacation - a good month long respite where you can worry about nothing but Sue for a change. Maybe it's time to plan that Hawaii meet and greet! Ya think??



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Ray is my survivor Hero at 20 years recovering from Stroke(s)! You and Jean are my care giver Heroes. I learned so much from the two of you since I've been a member here. My wife was great for me but she didn't have the struggles the two of you faced daily.


Sue, you are remarkable for all you have seen and the care you provided with Ray, your mum, dad and for 20 years for Ray alone is heart warming in my thoughts! Having one stroke is as much as I can comprehend and realizing Ray has had several is amazing to me.


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY RAY FOR 20 YEARS! That's a long way from my little 7 years next month! :Clap-Hands: :happydance: :big_grin:

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Congratulations. 20 years has been along time. i am with Sarah. We need to have that Hawaii meeting for ourselves.

You have truly been an inspiration for me. I have learned so much from you. You wisdom and sense of humor and life warming stories......price less.

I is sad that you weren't told about diabetes and stroke.....things to do and monitor to prevent more from occurring. Medicine has along way to go. But, luckly strokeboard goes along way in educating us.


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I enjoyed reading about the history of your and Ray's struggle through his health issues. We trust the doctor's to help us stay healthy but they miss the boat. We have to learn to be so diligent ourselves and yet how do we do this? Your husband was probably like mine - annual checkups and everything is fine. Larry had no blood pressure or cholesterol issues but something must have been brewing in his brain or arteries. It is a testament of your good care that he is celebrating 20 yrs after such a tramatic time. Happy Holidays to you both and an even happier 2011.


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Sue and Ray: Congratulations on your 20 years. A truly remarkable journey for both of you and your family. I am so blessed to have met you and been able to benefit from your wisdom and courage. Happy Holidays and best for the New Year. Debbie

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