Midwife To Tragedy

'Midwives to tragedy'
It's an awful phrase that came to me as we were returning to station after our latest job. We often are there at a transition between a normal happy life, and one that has taken a sudden, permanent, and terrible turn for the worse.

When the job came down the computer terminal we thought it would be one of our regular types of calls – A 35 year old man was complaining of numb hands and legs. This sort of thing often turns out to be someone having a panic attack, a frightening, but fairly harmless condition.

We arrived on scene and was met by the patient's wife, a number of small children milled around her feet. She led us upstairs to her husband and I could see straight away that it wasn't a panic attack.

He was unable to talk to me and he was unable to use the right side of his body. Surely he couldn't be having a stroke?

But further investigation ruled out anything else – he was having a stroke and there was little that we could do about it. So we carried him downstairs and rushed him to hospital.

Half an hour ago he was fit and well – then, moments later, he has been struck down with a debilitating illness. His wife has gone from looking after her children, with a husband who provides for her to someone who will end up nursing him, possibly for the rest of his life and will need to rely on disability benefit.

He won't be able to dress himself, or clean himself after going to the toilet – he'll rely on his wife to do these basic things for him.

As it gradually dawns on his wife that their life together is forever changed she looks at me in the hope that it is not true.

And me? It's another job, another life destroying event that I'm a witness to, there to watch as the realisation sinks in that their lives will never be the same.

Another to go on the list that I can no longer remember.

He is the same age as myself – it can really hit you how a life can instantly change when it happens to someone you can relate to.

30 thoughts on “Midwife To Tragedy”

  1. This happen to my wife at the age of 26 and on our honeymoon no less. Her stroke was 3.9cm which is massive. She is lucky to even alive but she came back from being quaraplegic and severe disphasia. 2 years on on she is almost back to normal. Only a very few close people can see the residual effects.Hope is not yet dead but it is a long, difficult and heart breaking road ahead for them all.

  2. what a horribly frightening thing… people forget just how this kind of thing can happen to the young, too.I work with therapy and service dogs, and see this more often than I want to admit. One of my pooches worked in the stroke-recovery ward of an adult hospital for a few years, and mostly worked with younger folk (under 40). It was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences of my young life, to realize just how things can change in the blink of an eye… and how no, this doesn't just happen to Grannie Fran at the ripe ol' age of 83…

    My best wishes to your wife. And here's to hoping that Tom's patient sees some improvement over the years.

  3. My father was just in a horrible accident six months ago, he had less than a 10% chance to make it. Unbelievably he did, though he still can't walk (though he improves everyday). This is the best thing that ever happened to him, his whole outlook on life has changed and now he is so thankful for every moment of life. It sounds a little corny, but I really believe everything happens for a reason, though we may not be able to see it.

  4. this is a sad example of life realy, how it can slap you round the face , and to add insult effect others at the same time.hopefully his family will appreciate the good times they have had and put asside the thoughts of dread for the times ahead.

  5. Strokes are awful things to have happen to you. I'll never forget the TV programme I had to watch at college, about a 40 year old father who'd had a massive stroke. At first he could only communicate to his teenage daughters by making a noise when they got to the correct letter of the alphabet on a board. It took ages to get one sentence, but they were really patient with him.

  6. Not quite the same, but still made me think a lot….two days ago right outside my house was a very nasty RTC, was a guy on a motorbike and a very large monster car/truck. I did my best to help (in my pj's), but there's not a lot you can do without equipment a (road is very different to a ward setting), but it wasnt' the accident that made my heart sink, it was when the paramedic went to check out the guy who had been on the bike, to hear her scream that it was one of their colleagues who was on his way to work. He was on his way to deal with that kind of thing, and then it happened to him – worse still his colleagues had to deal with a close personal friend and colleague as a patient – my worst nightmare. Slighty off your topic – just doesn't sit nicely on the mind…..

  7. I guess you don't get to see the brighter side. . . . just the traumatic event and its short term aftermath. I worked for a few years with a woman who had a slight speech defect and whose hearing was a little worse for wear. After working together for a few months, I was amazed to hear she had had a stroke in her early twenties. She had re-leant how to walk and talk. Her recovery took a few years, but there she was, working with our little team, being headhunted by dept after dept across the corporation for the skills and abilities she was able to offer. For some – there is a chance of recovery, it takes a lot of dedication and focus and an awful lot of hard work and the support of friends and family, but with luck and some of those magic ingredients, this man won't need to write off his capabiities just yet!

  8. The reason you do this job is because you care about your fellow beings.The reason you do it well is because you have the ability to remain detached. Other wise you would have the screaming ab-dabs by now. (My mother's phrase)

  9. This post will cover a few things, so bear with me please.I went to a patient about 3 months ago now, he had started suffering from a headache while he was at work, put it down to a little bit of stress, came home early and decided to pop to bed for a bit. His wife found him about 4 hours later, having become unable to move or call for help. By the time we got there he was just lying there incapable of doing anything at all for himself and unable to talk. With a little O2 therapy he was able to speak a little, but no-one could really understand what he was saying as his speech was so badly affected. A very swift exit from his flat to the hospital was called for and although it wasn't much of an improvement we were able to understand a few words by the time we got to A&E (thank you was all I could make out, which really choked me, here is someone in such a desperate state but still thanking us) 3 months down the line I got a call to the same address, I recognised it immediately (strangely enough as its hard to remember one job to the next sometimes) and was preparing myself for the worst. He answered the door to us, he still has a bit of trouble walking but he is pretty much back to normal, it was his son visiting him that had fallen and hurt his leg, nothing major but such an amazing job in respect that it allowed us to see the change in a person that was just a shell last time we saw him. So don't give up hope, it happens, to far too few unfortunately, but it does happen.

    The next is in relation to turning up to jobs that are your colleagues, in my mind this is the worst job I have had to do as its someone that you know very well that needs you more than anything, and it is difficult to remain the “robot” that you are on many jobs. Thankfully I have only had to go to two of these and they have not been too serious, but I hated every second of both of them. I keep everything crossed that I won't have to go to a friend and colleague again. But saying that, if I ever needed an ambulance (fingers crossed I never will) I know who I would want to be attending to me, even if they didn't really want to be there either…..

  10. What a tragic event. It is so shocking when this happens to anyone, let alone one so young. Its also hard to watch it happen, standing by, knowing what is going on but being totally powerless to stop it. Awful. Thoughts go out to the family and of course to you Tom.I also work as a HCSW for an agency, and I had looked after a 54 year old man who had been admitted with a stroke. My first placement as a student nurse was on a stroke rehab unit. I had heard tales of how stroke rehab was really negative and hard work, so it was with some trepidation I walked through those doors.

    When I started this placement, low and behold, this guy that I had previously cared for was there. The stroke had left him with a dense hemiparesis on his right hand side, and was unable to walk at all. This, understandably distressed him considerably as he had been previously fit and well.

    During the course of my placement, I watched him go through a rollercoaster of emotions, and struggles to regain independance, and was fortunate enough to be able to support him through this. He was discharged from the unit during my last week of placement 8 weeks later. He walked out using a special tripod in his right hand. He had regained the use of his right leg and some mobility in his right hand.

    I found this placement, and indeed the whole notion of stroke rehab a positive and uplifting experience, and it taught me so much about so many different things.

    I guess I am just echoing other bloggers comments that stroke is devastating and its hard to be positive, but sometimes, people do recover most of their previous quality of life, and it makes me proud that I am able to do my bit to help them with that.

  11. Thank you for your best wishes. To people that have been through this it really is a roller coster but I think there are three things that help considerably.One is shear determination. My Wife's grandmother had a strole 14 years ago and hasn't recovered on little bit as she simply gave up. She once said to me Wife “we can be invalids togther now”. As much as she loves her gran she would have slapped her across the face (if she could have moved her arms…)

    Two is good medical care. We were talking in bed when the stoke hit so I was able to tell the paramedics an exact time line for the stoke. We were rushed to hosptial which is described as one of the leading stoke reserch centres in America. The head ordeprtment was on duty that night and stopped at nothing to ensure fast, high quality care. She had tPA and ultra sound and MRI and was in intesive care in under 4 hours from the onset of the stroke. She then underwent 6 weeks of very intesive therapy (courtesy of our travel insurance)

    Three is good luck. We had wanted to go to Mauritus or the Seychells on holiday but ended up in Florida. I know that without the quality and speed of medical intervention she recieved she undobyed would have died. The doctors in the States prepared us for the worst and were all fairly suprised when three days after the stoke she was still alive.

    Apart from unexpectedly getting pregnant she was just about to do the London marathon (had to pull out with 3 weeks to go) only 1 year and 4 months after the stroke.

    Never give up hope on stroke victims. The encoragement of those around them is what kept my wife going though the seemingly impossible times.

  12. The thing that I didn't mention in the post above was that I'd seen his CT scan. I worked on a medical/stroke ward during my nursing days and I can do a pretty good prediction of his recovery.The scan was one of those ones you see and wonder how they are still alive.

  13. I can really relate to this. But my dad has major cancer surgery and had the stroke the day after that….obviously he was older than 35 but its still life changing. It was harder for my dad to recover from the stroke due to the massive operation and he was in hospital for 3 months. Luckily his speech wasnt too badly affected but the movement he never regained. We had carers in 4 times a day etc and my mom looked after him 24/7. Sadly my dad passed away in april, as the cancer returned and he had another stroke which just affected his face the day before.

  14. My Mum, who was a stroke victim, was waiting for an ambulance to take her back from a hospital appointment. She had a very long wait that day because one of the hospital consultants had been knocked off his bike and was seriously injured. She didn't mind waiting by the way. Sadly the Consultant was never able to return to work.

  15. My Mum had a stroke when she was 68. When she was learning to walk it initially took three people to hold her up.She was lucky in that there was an excellent rehabilitation unit near where we live(closed now, of course). This unit catered for all patients who needed rehab. not just stroke patients. They were all ages and helped each other a lot. The only proviso was that, if you didn't try, you were asked to leave.My Mum died when she was 89. She went to visit my aunt in Chicago when she was 80. She never gave up despite lots of medical problems.Her next door neighbour had a subarachnoid and recovered- maybe it was something in the water.I once saw a programme on television about a hospital (I think in the USA) about a man who had a stroke, was taken straight to hospital, given an angiogram to establish whether he had a bleed or a clot, it was a clot so he was given a clot buster and then he started to talk and use his arm and leg. Maybe one day there will be something that can be done that quickly available in the ambulance, I know it's a long shot!At our surgery there's a lovely lady who had a stroke when she had her son. She used to have to pick him up one handed by his clothes.Still, if you saw the scan you know what's what and it is tragic. it's a strange job really, being spat at, etc, called out to drunks, drug addicts and time wasters and then to a case like this.Still, if it didn't affect you, you really would be a hard old bastard!

  16. My dad (72) had a stroke in January while my mum was on holiday. We hadn't heard from him for a while so the 80-year-old neighbour went up a ladder and saw my dad lying on the bedroom floor in only his underwear under the open window (in January). We later worked out that he'd been there 3 days – conscious.He was taken to a very average stroke unit at Dartford, but has since been transferred to Sevenoaks where he's getting excellent care (naturally they want to close Sevenoaks down !). He's improving very slowly but is still paralysed down the LHS, double-incontinent and on-off lucid. My mum now has to sell the house they've lived in together for 40 years to move to somewhere more suitable and she'll be nursing him for the rest of their lives together.

    I'm glad to read the posts here that say there's hope for stroke victims. I hope he's one of the lucky ones that make a reasonable recovery. For all the family's sake.

  17. Truly one of lifes Hard blows. Known a few who have gone thru this process.One, a man in his early forties with wife and two young children, before the nearly fatal blow, had a series of strange moments in the previous days and ignored, but the real nasty one, happened when driving home and had an accident and the Police took him for drunk, and

    after a few hours in waiting for process finally sent to hospital where they gave up, and sent him to Hospice , where his wife would not give up , was repatriated to his own country for final days in the care of a rich Brother, whom then was able provide the necesssary care to have some recouvery, in speech eating and being even ambulatory.

    Question : Is there any guidelines for a layman to use in recognising some of the symtoms, there seems to be two major versions , a; blockage due to clots, and b; leakage or break in the blood flow.?

    In the first type, it has been said that an asperin would help, and in the second an asperin could be fatal.

    It also be stated somewhere if the victim gets to the correct diagnosis within a few hours , like another of my friends, the result be less tragic and can have some reasonable life .

  18. If I'm ever asked what shows up the greatest amount of fear in a man's eyes, I would have to answer a stroke. For a healthy, reasonably fit person, the sudden inability to do the simplist tasks, such as talking or moving an arm appears to be more frightening than the possiblity of dying from a heart attack.

  19. Essentially it's very tricky to tell, even with a CT scan (I think that the definitive diagnosis is made with an MRI scan – and with the NHS in the state it is good luck with getting one of those…)If it is a clot then speedy treatment can limit or even reverse the effects, but the same treatment can easily cause death with a bleed – so you need to be sure of your diagnosis, and there are few places in the UK who are happy doing that.

  20. We seem to think it can't/won't happen to us in the ambulance service cus we do this job, but we deal with reality everyday.The difference is, it's other people's reality – at the moment.

  21. Not sure if i am answering your question exactly correctly, but i think there are a few simple tests that 'joe public' can do to see if they think someone might have had a stroke? I beleive it involves asking the patient to do a couple of simple tasks e.g touch your nose, stick out your tongue (this tests understanding and motor function), asking them to repeat 3 simple words (this tests speech and memory). I have seen and heard junior doctors on the ward use some of these tests, but i have heard about them through non- clinical items in the media etc.Like i said, these are simple and not used as a primary diagnostic tool, as Tom says, you need scans etc for that, but joe public might find them useful?

  22. The test I heard of was to ask the patient to:smile

    raise their arms above their head

    say a simple sentence

    An inability to do any of these could be indicative of a stroke (assuming they could do them fine beforehand).

  23. if its any consolation Tom, i have nursed patients in the community who have suffered a CVA like this and within 6months made a full recovery. It's rare I know but it can happen with intensive physio and a good care team. Fingers crossed eh?

  24. Had a useful email a few weeks ago. If someone collapses inexplicably then come round shortly afterwards, ask them to stick out their tongue – if it falls fo one side chances are they had a stroke. ask them to lift their arms up – if cant do it then chances are a stroke. ask them to put a simple word into a sentence (eg 'sun' – teh sun is not shining), if cant do it then chances are………. It may not be but (sorry Tom!) would you really want to take the chance?

  25. “there seems to be two major versions , a; blockage due to clots, and b; leakage or break in the blood flow.? In the first type, it has been said that an asperin would help, and in the second an asperin could be fatal.”I wonder, if it was me, if I wouldn't take that gamble – either hoping it will make it better or fatally worse, but either one is acceptable? Hard choice, and I'm not commenting on what anyone else should do, but it does make me wonder which I'd prefer.

  26. Post code lottery at work? My Dad was told he was LUCKY to have had his stroke (one clot,one bleed different hemispheres) before his 65th birthday as no re-hab after. He had learnt to talk again and almost walk before another one.j

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