On Wednesday morning I woke very late, with a headache (a common occurrence with my M.E.) so I didn’t get in to see Mum until about noon, which is later than usual, and I found her lying on the bed resting (something she frequently does in the morning). However, this time she told me she wasn’t feeling well, and although she’d managed to get up and wash her hair and get her breakfast, she said she felt very dizzy and unsteady. Her speech was a bit slurred. I thought perhaps she’d developed an ear infection, and told her I’d phone the doctor and organise a home visit. Her speech became more slurred as time went on.
When I phoned, they said the doctor concerned was out on a visit, but he would phone on his return. Almost immediately after this, they phoned again to say that the slurred speech indicated something other than an ear infection, and it sounded to them as if she had had a mini-stroke, or TIA (transient ischaemic attack), and that we should call an ambulance right away and get her to A&E. she was very much against this, but it had to be done.
Things began to happen pretty fast then, and I had to dash upstairs and throw on some clothes (on bad days I don’t always get dressed until late in the day, if at all), and I ended up having no lunch! I couldn’t shift the headache but had to put my own concerns on the back burner while we got Mum sorted.
The paramedic with the ambulance did a basic examination of her and did the standard “FAST” test for stroke patients – Face, Arms, Speech, Time – time to get her to hospital quickly if any of the former were present – a falling face on one side, inability to hold the arms up, problems with speech. All these were normal except for the speech, and her blood pressure was pretty high.
I phoned my hubby who came straight home, and I went in the ambulance with Mum, and he followed in the car, bringing my wheelchair.
Then began the usual long and arduous wait in A&E, which she was not happy with! Eventually, after many hours, she was admitted to the ward (again, she was very unhappy about this and didn’t want to stay in hospital) where she stayed overnight. As the afternoon and evening progressed, her symptoms improved, but her balance was still not quite right and they were unwilling to send her home.
It was interesting watching her undergoing the standard neurological examination, and it brought back many memories for me as I experienced the same procedures in the early, pre-diagnosed, days of my M.E. She performed all of the tasks pretty well, with a few slight abnormalities in co-ordination showing up, and slight nystagmus.
We got home around 10 p.m. eventually! Having had nothing to eat all day since a late breakfast, except for a kitkat and a couple of small bags of crisps, I was way past eating a proper dinner!
In the morning my hubby took me back in and I spent the second half of the morning with her on the ward – we were anticipating the arrival of the solar panels fitting team and only after phoning them did we discover the message they’d left on our answering machine the day before, to inform us of the delay. After we left, she had a CT scan which revealed some degenerative changes in the blood vessels in the brain, but no evidence of a bleed at the back of her head where they’d identified the site of the problem to be, although they thought there probably had been a small bleed which wasn’t showing up on the scan.
She was discharged with a prescription for Simvastatin for cholesterol, and low dosage aspirin, which will be replaced by a stroke-prevention medication in a fortnight, when we are making her an appointment at the GP’s surgery.
At the hospital they also set up home visits by the OT and physio, and other community support workers. I am very pleased about this because it means that they will be keeping a proper eye on her until her personal goals have been met, and they are satisfied that she is stable, and able to function well. We have been warned of the possibility of further TIAs but with medication, the risk of this should be reduced. I am also pleased that she is now on their books for community support, because being in my own present state of health, there may come a time, quite suddenly, when the level of care I am able to give her will simply not be enough, and we may need to call in extra help quickly.
The whole experience was pretty stressful for us all! We are glad she is safely home, and seems fine. The OT arranged for immediate delivery of a trolley, and insisted that Mum used it for carrying things around her flat, because her risk of falling has now increased. Next week, her mobility outdoors will be assessed.
All we can do now is put ourselves in the hands of the professionals and hope for a good outcome, and the best health possible for her at her age (93) for as long as possible.