Today’s guest writer is Paul McLean. Batting way above his league he married one of my work colleagues in the early naughties. Since that point I have enjoyed his friendship and outlook on life. Paul’s life journey over the last few years has been a roller coaster of a ride and one can take much learning from it. Take it away Paul…
One Saturday morning, the 18th June 2016, I was with my wife chatting about stories, not book stuff, but videos that can be used to tell a story quick. I was talking about Casey Niestat video he made in Belfast and was turning my body to pick up my phone from the window sill to show it.
I noticed that I couldn’t move my right hand… I was trying to show my wife, Suzanne, that I couldn’t lift my hand to point. I tried to speak, but she was reading and didn’t see what happened. Thankfully, she noticed that my face had drooped and my speech was slurred. In my head I was speaking perfectly clearly, but she couldn’t understand. She rang an ambulance, and the ambulance called told her to try the FAST setup… yup! I had a stroke.I was rushed to Royal Victoria hospital where I had a revolutionary treatment to remove a blood clot from my brain, a thrombectomy. I was incredibly fortunate, because normally this procedure isn’t available on a Saturday, however, the neurologist just so happened to be in the hospital to pick something up. It was a bit of a miracle! The doctors told my wife there was about a 10% chance I’d survive, but thankfully I’m here to tell my story.
In the past year and a half, rehabilitation has been a massive part of where I am now. Speech and language therapy still has to be done everyday. JK Rowling and Stephen Fry were a massive part of how I can read better, but if it hadnt of been for an SLT lady called Jane Allen, I would be useless. Talking, conversations, and thinking were from her learning, and I still thank God for her existence. So, yeah, I can read.
Today, do you know what I miss the most? Reading. Yes, texts and tweets are okay, I can handle them, but a chapter of a book now hurts my brain, and at the end, I have forgotten parts of it. GAH! One book a day was my normal world. Now, maybe a chapter a week, if I’m on fire; not the usual for my current brain. Fatigue is my nemesis now. My brain is like a three year old; too much reading and thinking makes Jack a knackered boy.
Being a 41 stroke survivor wasn’t part of my plan. Language was my job. I like to think it still is, but I have lost so much, and I don’t always know how to get it back. Aphasia has destroyed my love for language and I miss it. An ex actor and English teacher without language is, well, pointless, which is how, for now, I seem to be!
Aphasia is a communication languages disability; reading and writing and speaking are all affected by it. And, for some people, it hinders their understanding of what others are reading or saying. It’s like of a random dyslexic syndrome cause by a brain injury, traumatic or other ways, like a stroke. For me, the best way for me to explain it is that my brain is holding my words hostage, and I can’t negotiate the release, it has those words too!
Writing this is a piece of art. Not just splashing the paint on a canvas, more like a play; moving the players around the page to create a manuscript. And to make that happen, I need patience. Probably something we all need.
Oh, and if you are wondering how I created this piece, speaking to my iPhone to type up what I say, send it to a computer and getting it to read it back to me, so I don’t make mistakes, and if my brain has find the mistake if it’s there! Other than that, I will work on patience today! The mistakes can wait…And so can the reading!
Bio: Paul McLean was an actor, teacher and philosopher. Now, at 41, Paul still tells lies, but as a stroke survivor, he is hoping to turn the ‘was’ to an ‘is’ and make the last one real.