Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Story Behind The Book

Gary Gray - Learning to Communicate Again

O. K. here is the challenge... First you have a blood vessel blow out in the middle of your brain. Then, your grey matter is being flooded by your own blood. Every brain cell that gets caught in the flood dies. This whole chain of events throws your body into a state of shock and it just wants to sleep. You know that you are still alive but you don't know much more. Your body  simply refuses to wake up for 21 days. Then, well into the 22nd day your body decides that just maybe we could take a peek to see just how bad things are.

The damage report is not encouraging. Thinking ability is mainly just a fog. Trying to remember, can't remember. Aggggh feeling frustrated. Feeling anxious need air. "Don't take away my fan".  Feeling confused. Hey, my  watch is on my Right wrist! Left arm feeling very heavy. Left leg feeling heavy too. I want to write something, can't, my hand won't move. Can't read either, the words are just swimming about on the paper. Can't walk, no, that's why two nurses are checking the instructions to get me into that sling contraption. They want me to transfer to the wheel chair or get me to the bathroom. I guess I will be peeing sitting down for awhile.

Man, What the heck happened to me? Early the first morning after my body woke up, my brain began replaying the events of the last day just before my body receded into that deep sleep. The detail was shockingly clear. It was as if my brain was replaying the tape trying to find an answer to that very question. "What the heck happened to me?"

This  is how my life after stroke began. How did I get from the car wreck that I have just described to finding my "new normal" and getting on with the rest of my life. There is more to that story than I have space to relate on this blog post. In future posts I will try to fill in some of those blank spaces.

As I began to put the pieces of what was my life back together. I began thinking about how can I get my life back. What pieces of my jigsaw puzzle life can I begin to put into place. There are many pieces that will tell my story in future posts but an important one was, that I couldn't use my Left hand to write any more, and my brain was so foggy that it was difficult to think through a simple sequence of events with any clarity.

Along the way, about six years into my recovery, the local library was starting a writers group and the librarian encouraged me to come. She knew me from the many visits when I would come to borrow books to read. It was my way to. One - clear my brain fog. Two - learn as much as I possibly could about stroke and how others had recovered. Three - retrain my eyes to see lines of print that actually made sense rather than just disjointed words moving about on the paper.

Interestingly, I felt the need to improve my communication skills and I could tell from reading what others had done that writing was a key to regaining and improving a very valuable part of my brain/body relationship that I would like to be "me".

Amazingly, as a member of this group I was able to learn, develop, share and adjust to the point where I was accepted as a  contributor to the book the group had decided to publish that year.

Although the book "Prince Edward Island Tales" has since  been discontinued from print, I was encouraged to contribute some additional pieces, along with my original ones, to the second edition of "Prince Edward Tales". This book is still available online through Amazon as well as local stores during the summer months.

I have now been a member of this group for three seasons and I continue to be appreciative of the support and encouragement that has been given me by it's members. Through the monthly meets,  public reading events and workshops associated with the group I continue to improve my communication skills and get on with the rest of my life after stroke.

Thank's  for reading my short story post. I would like to share more of "my life after stroke" in future posts. Stroke is a terrible life changing experience. The good news is that recovery is possible. Join with stroke survivors here on our blog, Facebook Fan page and Twitter feed to learn/share more. Feel free to join in the conversation. Tell us your story or ask your most burning questions.

Stroke Survivor since 2002

Friday, 27 May 2011

Set BIG Goals!!!

Gary Gray - kayaking on the Brudenell River

Goals are a key part to making progress with our recovery after stroke. Goals can be short term, long term, little goals or big goals. They all serve as an important tool to set markers along the way to being the best that we can be.

Early on I personally set as one of my BIG goals: "Kayak on the Brudenell River". Kayaking on the river was something that I enjoyed doing before I had my stroke. I used to own a wooden double kayak and paddled it on the Mill River in Western P.E.I. The kayak was sold when we moved in 93' but the yen to paddle remained.

During the 90's my daughter Karol and I would rent a double at the Brudenell River Rentals and spend hours together peacefully paddling the river. As the river glided beneath our kayak we often found ourselves surrounded by the gulls and terns with the occasional blue heron or even a a bald eagle. As I type these words the memories flow through my brain with clarity as the warmth of the experience fills my heart.

No wonder I wanted to kayak again.

In August of 2008 I found someone in the person of Jack Slade who agreed to accompany me on the river.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon later that month we rented our kayaks in readiness for some kayaking time on the Brudenell River. Jack brought his son along as well as his camera to snap a few pictures as proof that I had in fact accomplished my BIG goal to "kayak on the Brudenell River".

A little more than six years post stroke and I had spent a beautiful August afternoon with my friends on the Brudenell River in a single place fiberglass kayak woho!!!

The lesson from this post is in my life after stroke I needed to set goals. Short term, long term, little ones and big ones. With setting goals I would work toward and achieve a BIG GOAL!

Do you have any suggestions as to what BIG goals you would like to set for your recovery. Maybe you could suggest another BIG goal for me as I am always looking for BIG goals.

Thanks for reading about my life after stroke and here (below) are the pictures taken by my friend Jack Slade that day. You can catch up with me on the "My Life After Stroke" Facebook Fanpage. Come have a conversation.

Gary Gray
Stroke survivor since 2002

Thursday, 26 May 2011

My Stroke Story by Gary Gray

Gary Gray with his family just prior to his stroke

My name is Gary Gray aka garydotgray. I live in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I have lived here all of my life except for a short tour of duty in the Canadian Armed Forces 1969 - 1975. I was married for 16 years and separated for the past 16. I have two great daughters Krista 28 and Karol 27. They both have families of their own now and working/living in Charlottetown. We see each other as often as we can.

I have one sister Irene who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I spent the month of February 2003 visiting her and her family. I flew from Charlottetown to Vancouver and back at 5 months post stroke and got along fine. I was able to complete the trip again in 2005 with a 6 week stay that time. We usually call each other about once a week ever since the stroke. (she now has a computer so communication is much easier using MSN messenger) She has been a great support.

My stroke date was August 10, 2002 when I had stopped at a local coffee shop to grab a coffee. It happened right at the counter. I suddenly could not speak. Then numbness in my left arm and shoulder. Somehow, somewhere during my life I had learned the symptoms of stroke and I knew when I was losing my voice and when my side went weak, it was happening to me. My voice came back long enough for me to wisper 'I'm having a stroke call 911' 

I blacked out and remained in various degrees of coma for three weeks. In going back and forth between hospitals, I had five ambulance rides and I don't remember any of them. I was aware sometimes of people being in my room but they had to be right in my face before I could deal with them.

I woke up on Sept 01, 02 around 6:30 pm, just as two nurses were getting me ready for the night. I remember wondering why they were taking my clothes off. I asked them what was going on, and one of them looked at me and said 'Gary, you're back'.

For the next 7 weeks in hospital I had speech, physical and occupational therapies. I made good progress and was released on Oct 18, 02. As I was not able to be on my own, my friends Chris and Magie Clarke became my care givers and I lived with them from October 02 until July 03. 

On August 01, 03 I moved into a one bedroom apartment back in Montague. It is close to stores, Doctor's Office, Hospital, Library and bank ( I can walk to them all). 

That same month I began going in to my old office job one day a week. In September 03 I drove for the first time post stroke and got along well. It took me a long time to trust my body and my mind again. I expercise every day, no execptions, to keep my Left side mobile. I spend one day a week with friends, doing service work. I have a few toys to assist me with independence such as a one handed can opener, a rocker knife, one handed portable vacuum and a wrist BP/P monitor.

I have also received visits and telephone calls of encouragement from stroke survivor buddies, friends and family during the period of time since my stroke. So I have learned to accept my life change, keep a good routine, set attainable short and long-term goals and keep a positive attitude.

Some of us stroke buddies are using MSN to stay in touch so if you want to add me to your buddy list my address is mr_g33@hotmail.com

 Thanks for reading my story.

You are invited to connect with me on my "My Life After Stroke" page on Facebook
Please click on the "Like" button to follow me and receive new content as it is posted.

"Twitter" feed (coming soon)

Smiles :o)

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since 2002

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Gary Gray - My Life After Stroke

Welcome to my life after stroke,

As I begin to write I am at a point in time eight years, nine months and fifteen days post stroke. Interestingly enough this is just a reference point in time. The actual reality of the matter is that just like thousands and thousands of other stroke survivors I am getting on with the rest of my life. Living each day in what I like to call my "new normal"

My plan is to create my web profile where I can relate to others the reality of stroke and just what it is like to experience a stroke, survive and live life post stroke. This blog will be a part of that profile and I hope to use it to help interested people, other survivors, family members, caregivers and health care professionals gain insight into a  stroke survivors world post stroke.

If you are interested I invite you to become a follower of my blog posts and together we will explore "My Life After Stroke". 

Gary Gray
Stroke Survivor since August 2002

You are invited to connect with me on my "My Life After Stroke" page on Facebook
Please click on the "Like" button to follow me and receive new content as it is posted.