Digesta Plaga #5 — Apoplectic and Auric

Back to brass tacks. Back to apoplexy, and the latest exciting installment of Digesta Plaga.

I’m pretty sure that’s not how it goes.

But before we get back to that, a little bit of bonus material.

Paul’s Significant, Good and Terrible Songs

Some of you will have noticed that some of the funniest, most erudite original content on apoplectic.me doesn’t come from the bloke who experienced a traumatic brain injury. (I know. Surprising, isn’t it?) So click the header for a full dose of FriendOfTheBlogPaul, and his additions to the i hate ballboy list of significant songs.

Stop. TBI time.

Caring For My Stroke Victim Husband

FriendOfTheBlogDarren has been in touch recently, too. He directed me to this article, in which Jackie Ashley reflects on the stroke suffered by her husband, Andrew Marr.

His life had totally changed, but of course, as many kind friends have pointed out, mine had too.

For all that apoplectic.me often reflects on the vital role played by my friend, helper, rock and lover (Hi, hon!), even those reflections are observed from the perspective of the stroke patient. The Guardian article redresses that balance until I can do the same at greater length. In the meantime, I’d like to highlight some of Jackie Ashley’s other remarks….

“[Being a full-time carer] is, above all, exhausting.”

“Then there’s the additional stress of not knowing, because all strokes are different, how long and how full the recovery will be.”

Robert McCrum’s interview with Marr (of which more later), notes that he “mostly slept through his brushes with death [and] was oblivious to the dramas of his bedside and the potentially catastrophic side-effects of his post-stroke treatment.” I recognize this, having no memory of the worst. Andrew Marr began planning a holiday to St. Peterburg, oblivious to the fact that his wife was being told to “prepare herself for the worst.”

It’s even argued that carers, as much as their injured loved ones, can suffer post-traumatic stress disorders. It strikes me that it’s perhaps too easy to disregard the needs of the carer, particularly when hospital visits are centered around the hospital bed, much as the modern living room is centered around the television. Also when the patient gets home, and it seems the worst is over. But Beth spent over an hour last night administering memory and focus tests that had been dropped off by my new occupational therapist. Speaking of….

“[Jackie Ashby has] been contacted by many, many stroke victims and the general view is that hospital care is excellent, but there’s very little support after that.”

Conversely, I’ve been heartened by the quality of the post-stroke care that the NHS provides. Having been subjected to the horror stories that occasionally haunt Britain’s healthcare system — and been the beneficiary of the therapy provided by the  rehabilitation program ranked the best in New York and one of the top ten in the US since rankings began — I was initially a bit apprehensive about how things were going to go.

“No! It’s one-two-step-STEP!!”

As it turns out, things have started very well. I’ve already had my first physical, occupational and vocational therapy meetings, and I’m very encouraged by what I’ve heard. It does make me think, though, that there may be something to this retweet by the real life Peter Capaldi….

Perhaps the part of Jackie Ashley’s piece that resonates most notes that:

In the blink of an eye lives can be changed utterly. Every year 150,000 people suffer a stroke, and 50,000 of them are still of working age…. [T]here is nothing like a near-death experience to put life’s little annoyances into perspective and to learn to live each day for the day.

Andrew Marr, After the Stroke

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that her husband has received the benefit of this zen-like attitude. Just three days after the piece by Jackie Ashley, The Guardian’s sister newspaper published an interview with Marr himself, by fellow survivor, Robert McCrum.

It’s full of little, jarring insights. Most of the survivors I have met seem to have emerged from the shadow of the valley of death as changed people, dragging back little bags of battered gifts, their experiences having forced them to be more mindful of their feelings and actions. But in contrast to celebrity and unknown stroke patients who have somehow enjoyed the catharsis of emotional lability, Marr says he “doesn’t do tears.” McCrum is put in mind of a New Yorker cartoon.

Like the man on the couch in the New Yorker cartoon, he seems to believe that his personal life is none of his own damn business.

Not a cartoon by Roger Ebert, I’m guessing.

I feel sorry for Andrew Marr. Not only has he suffered a devastating injury, unlike my fellow survivors, he doesn’t seem to have gotten anything positive out of it. He nods to the fact that he has always raced from one thing to the next, without enjoying  the moment. Yet the language he chooses to indicate that he has learned an important lesson from this is striking and suggests the opposite:

From now on,” he concludes, with slightly grim relish, “I’m going to suck the juice out of life.”

On the contrary, there is a very Scottish dismissal of self-reflection. McCrum recalls the prevalence of psychotherapy in stroke units. It’s a fact much mentioned on the blog that I received great benefit from my outpatient psychotherapy, having thrown myself into the treatment. Marr’s head-shaking response?

There was a bit of that. But I’m not that way.

He continues, “I’ve no interest in exploring my murky depths.” Before another cursory acknowledgment of what his interlocutor expects — wants — to hear: “Yes, of course, I’ve been searching for meaning, but not much.” McCrum desperately tries to frame the conversation differently. He talks of how Marr becomes “suddenly reflective”. He forces secondary school interpretation skills into concluding that a change of tense indicates that Marr is no longer “impatient” and “abrasive”. When Marr declares that he has no inner life, McCrum writes that this is “plainly untrue”. But in each case, the words of the interviewee tell another story. Similarly, it’s Jackie Ashley who interrupts to tell her husband:

You’re more sensitised now, more tuned into the world than before.

And on and on it goes. Maybe it really is the carers we need to take care of. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, indeed?

Yes, the stroke victims are having a right good time of it. Consider the final entry in today’s Digesta Plaga, which comes from my own personal tech-savvy at risk youth….

Stroke patient left shaken and stirred after rare complication causes him to ORGASM when listening to James Bond theme music

That’s how the Mail headlines the story, CAPS and all. No doubt in hoping that this will tempt us to read the story that one Rachel Reilly has actually filled will educational titbits. So get over there.

I’m busy.

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