George Murray


My name is George Murray and I live in the Western Cape of South Africa near Stellenbosch, a university town and tourist attraction since it is the oldest village bar Cape Town. I was just over sixty years old on November 23, 2001. It was a beautiful summer morning and my first job of the day at 6 a.m. was to get milk from the farm about one mile away. Driving to the farm, having a chat with the dairy manager about the nice day, and back at home with the milk in the fridge. Waiting for the newspapers to arrive, it was time for a quick look-around and check-off Saturday chores to be done. At 8 a.m. I was off to get the papers and fresh bread some five miles away. On my way out of the shopping center with the papers and bread I felt ... queasy ... and waited for it to go away. I felt better and got in the car and on the way home felt even funnier and funnier, and about one mile from home I stopped the car with a feeling of " I just couldn't care less." Later that day, I woke up in the hospital. I was told I had suffered a stroke and everything was OK. I was not exactly sure what a stroke was, but I couldn't care less and dropped off to sleep again. Sleeping is about all I remember of that last week of November.


The first week in December I started to surface and I was told what had happened to me, not fully realizing exactly the implications of what I lost. If I had realized then what it means to lose one's right leg, right arm and hand, and half of one's speech capacity, I would probably have done something drastic. Fortunately, my damage was down-played and I was led to believe the damage was reversible, but that I would require serious rehabilitation in terms of muscle tone and speech training. The schedule was six months rehab plus another two months for obtaining a new driver's license. Sounded like a piece of cake...


For the first few weeks at home I had a physio and a speech therapist. I did not even bother to learn left-handed writing -- surely right-handed retraining will be easier with a hand that is used to writing ...? And surely getting special clothes or gadgets for a stroke patient is not necessary-rehab will be done after six months. I exercised my leg and practiced my arm by picking things up. I became skillful in saying "bue moe" and "pooi voo". It wasn't fun, but anyone can suffer anything for six months if restoration is anything to go by.


This status quo went on until June - July 2002 when I could see no improvement in my arm or leg. By now I had realized stroke restoration is not a viable goal. By reading library books about exactly what happened and what lies in my footpath on the road ahead, it became clear that I was laboring under a misconception: There is no reversal. Period. There is no second chance. Period. Furthermore, my right ankle was still giving trouble, and I spent most of my waking hours in my arm chair-moving about has become too painful. During this time suicide became foremost and uppermost in my thoughts: My wife and children don't really need me any more-I'll be missed for a week or so but life goes on. Also, I couldn't complain-I have had 60 years of fun and tears of which 35 years were happily married. At this stage the psychologist prescribed anti-depressant tablets which had a positive effect.


This past year had gone by without my joining any stroke companion groups (with the exception of StrokeNet) because I still couldn't believe it and I still could not relate something life-threatening happened to me-my right leg also made for error-prone limping with the cane for support. By the time of writing, I have crossed the bridge of accepting my stroke as being with me for the rest of my life, and we have (at last!) located a doctor who is hopeful about fixing my right ankle. So its another three weeks in hospital followed by more rehab, and then, who knows... walking without a cane, getting a drivers' license and doing things!


Looking back over what I have said, it is not so much a biography of my life, but an account of my stroke just less than one year ago and (with few exceptions) the battles with medics and paramedic players. It was not a very good year, but stay tuned in for more information on how I am winning the game against the cards dealt to me. My address is for mail-letters will be answered.



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