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From Active Lifestyle to Stroke Survivor: Naveen's Stroke Journey

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is based solely on the personal experiences and accounts of the interviewed stroke survivors. The symptoms, treatments, and challenges discussed by the interviewees are unique to their individual circumstances and should not be taken as medical advice or generalized medical claims. Readers should consult their healthcare professionals for advice and information specific to their own health conditions. Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) does not endorse or validate the medical accuracy of the personal experiences shared in this article.

Naveen was a very active person with no prior health conditions, considering himself very healthy. He had no family history of health issues and had even run five marathons. He attempted the ultra marathon in Singapore, known as the Sundown Marathon. Although he didn’t finish it, he was proud to have attempted it. Naveen frequented the gym and enjoyed swimming.

At the time, Naveen worked as a roving desktop support engineer for the People’s Association, often providing onsite support. He lived with his family, including his mother and two siblings. Despite being slightly overweight and having a knee issue from his NS (National Service) days, Naveen remained active and engaged in various activities. While he had taken a first aid course that covered some information about strokes, he didn’t have a deep understanding of its causes and implications, initially believing strokes were related to the heart rather than the brain. Little did he know that his journey would soon take an unexpected turn, leading him to a deeper understanding of stroke and its impact.

On September 11, 2011, Naveen was supposed to attend a friend’s wedding. However, that morning, while he was alone at home, he suddenly fell when he tried to stand up and couldn’t feel his legs and hands. Faced with two options—to sleep it off or call for help—he chose the latter. Crawling to his desk, he struggled to reach his phone, which had fallen out of reach. After managing to pull the charging wire toward him, he dialed 995, providing his address and describing his symptoms.

The paramedics arrived quickly but faced a challenge when they couldn’t open the door, as Naveen couldn’t stand up to let them in. They had to call the police to knock down the door for access. Time was ticking, and Naveen, conscious throughout, worried about contacting his friend about missing the wedding. En route to the hospital, he overheard paramedics discussing the Nike event, which made him ponder if he would run again. It was also a special feast day at his church, an event he now wouldn’t be able to attend.

When Naveen woke up after his stroke, the doctor delivered a concerning diagnosis: he had experienced a hemorrhagic stroke, and his blood pressure had spiked to a dangerous 260. He felt a heaviness and an inability to move his right side, describing it as if his limb was foreign to him—he could think about moving it but couldn’t physically do so. This was a shock, leaving him fearful about the possibility of permanent disability. For about a week, he couldn’t speak, sit upright, or move independently, relying entirely on the hospital bed.

Doctors couldn’t offer guarantees about his recovery, adding to Naveen's anxiety. When his family visited, they were equally shocked by the sudden turn of events. Naveen spent two months in a community hospital, where his determined physiotherapist provided encouragement and structured sessions that filled him with hope. Initially unable to even sit or speak, he progressed from a wheelchair to walking independently. Today, he's regained much of his independence, able to explore different parts of Singapore on his own.

After his stroke, Naveen underwent a significant transformation, losing a considerable amount of weight. Upon discharge, his family arranged for a helper to assist him in daily life, a crucial support system in his recovery journey. This helper played a pivotal role in his rehabilitation process. Naveen’s perspective on life underwent a profound shift post-stroke. He began to appreciate life's blessings more, often comparing his situation to those facing more severe challenges. He witnessed firsthand the struggles of other patients in the hospital, including one who lost his legs in an accident and was paralyzed from the waist down, leading to his fiancé leaving him. These experiences made Naveen feel fortunate to have overcome his stroke and reflect on his previous recklessness.

At that time, resources for stroke survivors were limited. However, during his hospital stay, Naveen encountered a group of stroke survivor befrienders who shared their stories of life after stroke, providing him with hope. Inspired by their support, he eventually became a befriender himself. He fondly remembers Alex Chia, one of SNSA’s senior befrienders and a fellow stroke survivor, who played a significant role in his journey. Naveen also shared the same ward with Jackson Ng, another stroke survivor. Jackson, accompanied by his wife and caregiver, Anne Ng, became a source of inspiration for Naveen. Meeting them gave him further hope and strengthened his resolve to overcome the challenges posed by stroke.

Driven by his experiences, Naveen took on leadership roles within SNSA, serving as the secretary on the executive committee, managing crucial aspects of the organization. When asked about his message for readers, Naveen said:

"Cherish every moment and never take your mobility for granted. Seize every opportunity to create lasting memories, for life's unpredictability reminds us to cherish what we have."


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