I took care of my husband after he had a stroke, and it majorly impacted my life and our marriage.
A Stroke Is Unexpected
While travelling back from our latest holiday spent on our yacht in Barcelona, I noticed a slight change in my husband John's mood. We had planned to spend three days travelling through France in order to break up the journey, but John wanted to get home.
I sensed an urgency in his voice, but he gave no explanation as to why he needed to get straight home. After a seventeen-hour journey, we arrived home at about 1.00 am.
In the morning, I let John lie in because he had driven the previous night. I got our dog from our daughter's and did some errands, but my instincts were telling me to go home.
When I walked into our bedroom I found John in distress. He was gasping for air—his tongue was protruding. He was also patting his chest. He had a look of horror in his eyes. Initially, I thought he was having a heart attack. I immediately phoned for an ambulance.
Later that night, a scan revealed that John had suffered severe atrial fibrillation and a stroke. The medical staff was astounded that John was not paralyzed which is often an after effect of a stroke.
It quickly became evident that John could not communicate verbally or process everyday tasks such as shaving, reading, telling the time and making a coffee or toast. He was not aware of my name or other members of the family.
John received physiotherapy and speech and language support in the hospital. He was discharged two weeks early due to his progress.
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
This is a disease of the heart characterised by irregular and often faster heartbeat. A stroke victim has blood tests and a CT scan to determine the extent of the stroke (damage).
This condition develops when the upper two chambers of the heart (atria) do not work in coordination with the lower two chambers (ventricles). It can also be caused by other conditions including an overactive thyroid gland, lung infections, or a blood clot in the lung.
Symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Our Life Before the Stroke
John was a strong, well built, hardworking, clever man. He ran his own building company with a team of twenty or more employees. His attention to detail was impeccable; he was a craftsman. He was an excellent cook and liked nothing more than cooking beautiful dishes for many family and friend gatherings.
We had a very good marriage–having two children and now three grandchildren. We travelled well and enjoyed many Christmas ski holidays in Austria and a beautiful caravan in the lake district.
Caring for a Stoke Victim
It was difficult when John arrived home from the hospital because there was a delay in accessing the services that he needed at home. He was unable to undertake everyday tasks and couldn't remember pin numbers for his business and personal banking and passwords for emails. This made it difficult for me to attempt to sort out the business affairs I had to take over.
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Most people were very understanding. They prepared to give us time for John to recover. However, the bank and loan company were not generous: They demanded our 25,000 and 20,000 overdraft be repaid immediately. I explained the situation and added that I wasn't able to work because I was needed as a carer for John.
Personality Changes After a Stroke
One morning about three weeks after his stroke, John came to my bedroom door in a rage. He was spitting and screaming and was red in the face.
He accused me of all that had occurred, including the debt and his stroke. He further accused me of not wanting to be there for him. Two days later he managed to get to the yacht on his own.
We did not communicate for two weeks. I was devastated by his behavior. I approached the Stroke Association for advice. They said that behaviorial and personality changes after a stroke are common, which can lead to divorce in many couples.
They suggested I keep my bedroom door locked. When John returned from Barcelona, he demanded a divorce. He would neither eat nor stay in the same room as me. There was a look of hatred in his eyes.
My Life Over This Last Year
It has been nearly a year since John's stroke. It has been the worst year of my life!
After two suicide attempts and with extensive support from the mental health team, I am now on the mend. Solicitors became involved in the divorce and assets where things got worse.
John has a support team that has helped him with his divorce petition. The Stroke Association guidelines state that a person who has experienced a stroke may become deluded and believe that what they say is true, or they may become paranoid or feel persecuted.
The saddest thing for me is that he does not remember all of the fabulous memories we have had throughout our 28 years together. This leaves me with feelings of helplessness and sadness. However, with the support of friends, family and associated professionals, it is a trauma that can be overcome. More recently, John has suffered several smaller strokes and is now in isolation at a friend's place.
Here's what to look for if you suspect a stroke. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T.
- F: Facial drooping
- A: Arm weakness
- S: Speech difficulties
- T: Time to call emergency services
It's important to note that John did not display any of the familiar features of facial drooping or speech difficulty. If in doubt, call emergency services.
If any part of my experience resonates with you, please feel free to leave a comment below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Doloras (author) from Lancashire on June 30, 2020:
Doloras thank you for sharing your traumatic experience of your husbands stroke. I feel for anyone going through this and I truly hope you do overcome all the problems that this stroke has brought into your life.