My name is Reuben Wilson, last year at the age of 22 I suffered a bleed on my brain, also known as a stroke, my life was flipped upside down with the events that followed, this is my story.
At 6:45am on the 20th of June 2018 I left my house for work, little did I know this day would quite narrowly be my last, but would change my life forever. Throughout the day I remember having a slight headache, something that was not uncommon for me, I’ve hit my head whilst working underneath a boat and vaguely remember a weird popping sensation. With every passing minute a headache grew increasingly worse until I couldn’t bare to keep my eyes open and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I went to my supervisor and explained I needed to go home, this was unfortunately the start of a horrible sequence of events that I still struggle with accepting to this day. From leaving work and beginning the 10 minute walk home, I have seriously deteriorated and passed out a number of times, without being fully alert, I was unable to break my fall and have cut gaping holes in both knees. Once home I’ve decided to call my big brother, Joel, as I felt something was seriously wrong. His response and action, in hindsight, most probably saved my life. He’s realised something was out of the ordinary and has left work, staying on the phone to me for the duration of his journey, he only ended the call when he said ‘I’m outside now, I’ll be 2 minutes’. In the time it took him to get out of his car and up to my room, my first words when he came into my room were ‘what are you doing here, shouldn’t you be at work?’, unaware of the 30 minute call we’ve just had, he’s noticed blood running down my legs and asked how I got the holes in both knees, I replied ‘I don’t know’, proving something is seriously wrong. Joel then took me straight to our local hospital and within minutes of being there, I was put on a stretcher and wheeled into an MRI scan, the staff have seen the results and just as quickly hooked me up to a number of machines and told me and Joel they need to take me to Southampton hospital immediately for treatment. Joel has walked with me to the ambulance that was waiting, blue lights flashing and all staff ready to depart for the 55 mile journey.
The events that followed I struggle to recall exactly, but with my families accounts I can now piece a story together with the array of flashbacks I have.
At Southampton hospital I’ve been diagnosed with an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), which in normal English is a tangle of blood vessels with abnormal connections between arteries and veins. This is a birth defect that I could have gone my whole life without noticing. However, the bleed left me in ICU under the care of the neurology department in Southampton. Whilst in hospital I suffered with severe short term memory loss, I had lost most of my peripheral vision, alongside debilitating chronic migraines and back pain, this unfortunately was unescapable and was a mandatory step in my recovery. I’d sincerely like to thank the nurses that would always go along with my number of introductions, made on a daily basis during their rounds. There was never a round they didn’t receive a smile and ‘’Hi, my name is Reuben, nice to meet you. Can I have some more morphine’’ which was politely replied with ‘’Nice to meet you Reuben, even though I have been looking after you for the last 5 days now’’ hat off to them, this would have driven me mad.
After me and my family were given the official diagnosis, the surgeon and his team had a regimented plan. We were hopeful for a good recovery but were also made aware that this was life threatening surgery. The team explained I needed brain surgery to remove the AVM that had bled, but due to the large amount of blood on my brain, from the stroke, they could not operate that blood had reduced. This meant staying in hospital in excruciating pain, with every sense being heightened to unimaginable levels, to the point where a dripping tap sounded like a fog horn going off in my ears every couple seconds. I was regularly scanned to monitor the size of the bleed, waiting agonisingly for it to decrease enough for the surgery. When the day came for this surgery, it was regrettably the day before my graduation, so instead of preparing with a black gown and hat, I was prepared with a white gown and bald head and the surgery that was meant to take 4 hours, turned into 8, but after a final scan and with my mums fingernails being non-existent, the surgeons were happy they had removed all of the AVM. Although that was the hardest step physically, it was also only the first in a long recovery that I am still battling with to this day. I have permanently lost some of my right side peripheral vision and battle with short term memory loss daily. The headaches and pains from my scar reduce weekly and I am now hopeful that I will recover enough to attend my graduation that I unfortunately missed.
From a young age I’ve felt a certain twitch in the back left side of my skull, being triggered when I’m severely stressed or exhausted, this twitching sensation went undiagnosed but now I know was the exact cause of my stroke. Its scary how something that I thought was normal and just an ordinary muscle twitch could prove to be a life threatening issue. I believe in this day and age people frequently and unfortunately leave themselves either undiagnosed or even worse misdiagnosed with the abundancy of online symptom checkers. I appeal to anyone reading this, if you have a certain health concern or something you are not entirely sure about, please get a health professional to check it. It may be nothing but unless you ask youll never know.
When my sister told me she had signed up to do a marathon I thought she was joking, as all of our families’ long distance running abilities are laughable. Nevertheless, I see she’s determined to train and prepare for this marathon no matter the time, day or weather. I thinks it’s incredible that my big sister is doing this for the neurology department that so frequently goes unappreciated as it seems just part of the daily schedule, this department saves so many lives including my own. The butterfly AVM charity also raises awareness and funds ground-breaking research for this troubling condition that quite frequently goes undetected. My sister asked me to write this in November and despite sitting for hours trying to complete it, I still find it difficult coming to terms with the reality of how my life has changed. However, with the incredible support from my family and friends I know my recovery is in good hands.
The reason it’s so nice my sister asked me to write this myself is because I’m fortunate enough to see this marathon and to help raise money for these causes myself, without it being ran in memory of me. I am very fortunate to have come through this scary and life threatening time fairly unscathed and healthy. It has certainly put life into perspective for me and made me reconsider what is important in life. We all have a finite time on earth, surrounded by the people we love and cherish the most, I believe we all could reconsider how we spend our free time and more frequently do whatever makes us happy. As well as how we treat our loved ones, do they know we are grateful to have them in our lives and thankful for everything they do.
Thank you for reading, I know some parts of this might seem slightly morbid, but I mean the complete opposite in reality. Do things that make you happy, surround yourself with people you love and people that love you and most importantly enjoy your life whatever you do.
Any donations would be greatly appreciated,
Phoebe's Southampton Marathon
Southampton Marathon 5th May 2019 for Southampton Hospital Charity because To Raise Money For 2 Amazing Charities
We raise vital funds to enhance facilities and services at UHS
Charity Registration No. 1051543