I mentioned in my first post , that I am going to try to make some kind of sense about what happened to me when a blood vessel exploded in my brain. These posts will be the first time I’ve ever written anything about it. I have talked many times on the subject to lots of people but such verbal expression always seems to me to be for the benefit of the listener; I feel that I’ve never expressed the experience for myself and to try to make sense of it for myself. To do this I think my posts are going to have to be random, out of sequence and thus be hard to follow. I am going to have to be open and personal and true in order for me to fathom it out for myself .So therefore in this post I want to go back to the day of my brain haemorrhage……
The morning of Saturday 27th July 1996 was bright and sunny and warm. The weather had been the same all week and I felt immensely optimistic about life, I honestly remember having one of those rare euphoric moments when you know that things are going to work out alright. I had been living away from home for about a year which had proved sad but necessary at the time for both my wife and I; a trial separation I suppose. I saw the children, almost every night and always at weekends. My wife and I had been getting on far better with each other as a result of this arrangement.
I was at the end of a two-week holiday and I really did feel refreshed and rested and ready to get back to work. I’d had a wonderful time with the children over the holidays. I’d had a great two weeks break.
Anyway back to the morning of Saturday 27th July……I drove over to the family home rather early. As I parked my car on the drive and got out from behind the wheel I would have had no idea that within half an hour I would never be able to drive a car again. How could I know?
The children were having breakfast and as I had arrived unexpectedly earlier than usual, I sensed a little bit of tension between my wife and I, something we both wanted to avoid, so I slunk off into the garage to lift some weights. Even though we were living apart we had agreed that I could still use the “home gym” that I had built. I had converted the garage of the family house into a small home gym. A bench, a squat rack, a sit up bench, a chinning bar and lots of free weights. Dumbbells and barbells littered the floor. My bikes hung on racks from the ceiling along with all kinds of racing wheels. I used to shut myself away for an hour or two in the ‘gym’ about 3 to 4 times a week all year round, sweating in the summer and steaming in the winter. I used to bench press too much weight, failing the press after a few reps and getting trapped underneath the barbell. This was a dangerous regular occurrence so I never put collars on the barbells which allowed me to slide the weights off if I found myself in this predicament. The weights crashing to the concrete floor as they slid from the bar causing the whole garage to vibrate but saving me from asphyxiation. Ha-ha ,what an absolute dick I must have been to put myself through such torture.
A large poster of multiple Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain and an equally large print of Vic Reeves adorned the one wall. A bizarre combination but they were great posters. Miguel for inspiration and Vic for the humour and for the pure hilarity of the look on his face.
So on the morning of the 27th July 1996 I wandered into the garage. I didn’t warm up and threw myself into a set of bench presses at a weight of approximately 150 lbs. Half way through the first set of 10 reps I felt a ‘pull’ deep inside the right of my forehead, a uniquely exquisite pain like a sharp, obscure pin prick and itch rolled into one. Stupidly, I literally pressed on, finishing the 10 reps. I sat up and the headache eased a little so I went into another set of 10 repetitions. The headache came back again, slightly worse this time. I secured the barbell and sat up rubbing my forehead expecting the pain to subside, but it didn’t . I then noticed that my vision appeared strange ,I wasn’t seeing normally, there was something wrong, I wasn’t sure what, but I was seeing the world around me in a different way. Far different from what my senses were used to. I couldn’t figure it out. What was going on? I sat on the edge of the bench in the garage looking around myself trying to figure out what was wrong. The world around me seemed flat and incomplete. The incompleteness was all around me and this misprint, this flaw, this error in what I was seeing was moving in tandem together with the movement of my eyes and it was getting worse. It came to me then, by instinct rather than expertise, that I may be having a stroke. I had no real idea what a stroke was, but what ever it was that was happening to me, I knew that something serious was up with my body. What I didn’t know was that I was having a brain haemorrhage. A malformed blood vessel had blown in my head leaking it’s contents into my brain.
Okay, rewind back 6 weeks to sometime in June 1996. I had started to get headaches. Nothing new for me as I regularly would develop a tension headache especially after a particularly stressful day at work. .But these headaches were different, like a persistently bad hangover headache, real throbbing to your pulse headaches that wouldn’t shift. So I’d made an appointment to see an optometrist for an eye test after work one day. I remember he seemed to spend an awfully long time looking into the back of my eyes with his magnifiers and instruments. He was about my own age, he looked a little nervous and I noticed how his thin fair hair was receding at his temples. He wore glasses, a circular wire framed pair which were trendy at the time. He was a good-looking man. Strange how I remember these things. We never finished the eye test. He went over to his desk and handwrote a letter and put it into an envelope and sealed it. He told me that he had found swellings at the back of both eyes and I was to take the letter to my GP. He said it was nothing to worry about and fairly routine but I should see my doctor as soon as possible.
At that time my GP ran an evening surgery so I headed straight over to his office and managed to get into see him. I showed him the letter. He opened it, read it and got straight on to the Eye Hospital in Birmingham and arranged an appointment for the very next day. I attended the Eye Hospital as arranged; I wasn’t worried in the slightest in fact I was grateful for a few hours away from work. With my head braced into some kind of frame I was fussed over by 2 doctors who took turns at looking into my eyes. What they found was some swelling around the point were my optical nerve joined the back of each eye. This sounded like nothing to me and I was ready to shrug it off and get back to work and just forget it. However, when a Consultant was summoned to take a look I started to feel a little uneasy. The Consultant spent quite a bit of time looking into my eyes; my head braced on the frame again. They all went off to discuss their findings leaving me sitting in the examining room half blinded from the drops they had put into my eyes. Anyhow, I ended up spending almost a full day at the hospital. I saw the Consultant again and he explained to me that I did indeed have swellings around my optical nerve but they were well within tolerance levels. What were tolerance levels ? I had no idea, I know that I didn’t really care at the time. I was wondering what intolerant levels were. I was happily discharged with my tolerance levels . Little did anyone know that this was probably the first showing of a build up of pressure within the optical cortex of my brain caused by the malformed blood vessel that was about to blow. It’s so easy to come up with this conclusion now, years later, but how could anyone know for sure what the real reason was for those swellings at the back of my eyes at that time. It’s interesting to think that as I don’t have any swelling now, it must have been a precursor, or maybe a warning of an imminent brain incident. I will never know.
It was a lovely sunny day and I was happy to be out of the hospital. I staggered around the car park looking for my car as the drops that had been put into my eyes hadn’t worn off and I was virtually sightless from the glare of the sun. I found my car and sat inside it for about an hour waiting to recover. I must have drove home by instinct, squinting over the steering wheel on the M6 towards home. I can remember the drive home, in the slow lane watching the white line of the hard shoulder with one eye. The other closed because it couldn’t take the brightness of the sun’s reflection on the windscreen ; the exit off the motorway was tricky, a bend to the left and a roundabout. Arriving home I went into the garden flopped into a chair and closed my eyes. The following day I went back to work, put the day behind me and duly forgot all about it.
Part 2 of ‘Brain haemorrhage day’, to follow…..I go blind, get misdiagnosed, I am transfered to 4 hospitals in a day and told I may not survive the night.