Aidan from Armagh’s stroke could have caused a serious road traffic accident on the fast-moving A1 but due to years of driving experience, he avoided this, though he has no recollection of how he did. As Aidan drove his HGV on the Newry bypass in August 2018, unknown to him a clot had formed in the carotid artery in his neck.
Aidan recalls, “I was in the outside lane, overtaking a jeep with a trailer. I was just past them so checked my wing mirror before pulling back in again. I can remember clearly seeing the jeep, but when I looked forward again, it was completely black.” Aidan could not see a thing. The clot had reached his brain and he was having a stroke.
Somehow he got the lorry onto the hard shoulder but he has no recollection of driving across the inside lane. For a long while he had no idea of where he had stopped and assumed he was still in the middle of the road. He was bracing himself for someone running into the back of his vehicle.
He continues, “I began to sweat profusely and fall to the right hand side against the door of the cab. I got my phone out to call for help but I was sweating so much that the phone did not register my finger to unlock the screen and I couldn’t see clearly enough to unlock it using the code.
“It took about 30-40 minutes for me to be able to see just enough to open my phone. I couldn’t see well enough to read but by then I could see patterns and shapes so could use my code. I was able to navigate to my recent calls log. I knew that my last call was to a driver who’d said he was down in Dublin, too far away to help me. But the call before that was to a driver who lived nearby in Newry and he’d mentioned he was off work that day. So I called him.”
Aidan’s colleague came immediately and Aidan’s road to recovery began, first at Daisy Hill Hospital, then the Royal Victoria Hospital, and then in Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke’s support groups and programmes, including the Post Rehab Exercise Programme (PREP).
The right hand side weakness that made Aidan fall to the right in the cab of his vehicle continued afterward, causing him to veer to the right when he walked.
Aidan says, “It was really embarrassing. I couldn’t walk straight at all. People would assume I was drunk and I even got comments from people when they saw me staggering around first thing in the morning.
“PREP has really helped with my balance. The exercises have helped me build up muscles again and teach my body and brain how to walk in a straight line. It might seem like a small thing but it is huge to me as it was really humiliating. PREP has really helped me a lot.”
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.