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My stroke - Joe Mulvey

Having a stroke is a bit like winning an Oscar; there are so many people to thank.

My stroke was two days before my  44th birthday, in February 2004. Others saw some warning, but I woke up after it happened. I live alone in Dublin's city centre, but knew enough to order a taxi to the hospital on call. They were understaffed and I wasn't conscious enough to realise what was happening. So, I took a seat and sat in it for the next 26 hours! I realise how stupid that sounds now, but then it was just what I did. Unfortunately, I was mugged overnight, which is a complication I am still recovering from. A sympathetic Policeman told me that gangs target A+E departments, which seems sadly obvious in retrospect.

Now, I still had some reasoning, as after being told the next morning that I would have to wait a further 10 hours, I decided to leave and find help elsewhere. I went to my father's home, forgetting he had moved two years previously. Still, I got a break there. My sister had kept in touch with the new owners who helped get me to her. Her doctor visited me within minutes and realised what had happened. He arranged for me to go to a different hospital, and within an hour, I was in a bed in Tallaght Hospital's A+E department. Just in time to get my Birthday cards! My family rallied to me and have stuck close ever since. They could not have done more. Despite the third world route to a hospital bed, once there, the service was second to none. Tallaght Hospital has a dedicated Stoke Unit, the William Stroke's Unit, to whose staff I am forever indebted. It's a one-stop shop for stroke sufferers and has all consultants, therapists, nurses and equipment to hand. Unfortunately, the nature of a stroke requires time to both define the damage and to begin the recuperation process. The support from Professor O'Neill and Doctor Martin speeded my recovery, while the endless good humour of the ward staff, kitchen, cleaning and nurses made it as pleasant as possible. Tallaght is a teaching hospital and the students' visits were great for breaking up what can seem a boring routine, when you don't feel really 'ill'.

Months passed in a flash and I was released into the hands of my local Health Centre and Baggot Street Community Hospital. They contain my local Stroke Rehabilitation Unit. I attend Occupational and Physiotherapy once a week there and what they have achieved is already miraculous. I am totally in awe at what these people have done for me.

Like those in Tallaght Hospital, Baggot Street is staffed by wonderful, if modest people. I can have a bad week. I may be full of self-pity or grumpy. But I know that however I feel going in, I will feel so good after my visit. And they do this daily against an ever-lengthening queue. Through them I got to know about Different Strokes. The people I have met there help me to regain my confidence and to be positive about my future.

So I'm feeling good about my life at the moment. I'm back living in my apartment. My company is very supportive and allowing me to try working again on a bit basis. I've learnt what a good family I come from. I've seen how strong friendships can be when tested. I'm indebted to the professional healthcare in our hospitals. I am above all deeply appreciative of my Therapists and the dozen or more unsung strangers, who are helping me recover. If I could change things back, of course I would. But after the people my stroke has let me meet, it would not be as simple a choice as I might have imagined...........and I'd have to hand back the Oscar!

Thanks for your time and best wishes with your own battles.


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