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Stroke Is My Blessing in Disguise: Malcolm'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.

Meet Malcolm, an IT project consultant and manager, married with two young boys. Malcolm's work life is hectic, often requiring him to rush to meet project deadlines. This constant pressure has made him quite impatient with his wife and kids. He recalls times when his children ate their food slowly, which would frustrate him.

Due to his demanding schedule, Malcolm found it difficult to spend quality time with his family, leading to some friction at home. This often resulted in quarrels with his wife. Despite the stress at work, Malcolm made time for regular exercise and had no known medical issues. However, he did mention that he was a little overweight.

In 2018, Malcolm's life took an unexpected turn. He woke up early one morning to attend a special company event, starting his day with a routine shower. However, he soon experienced weakness and trouble with his mobility while trying to put on his pants. Struggling and needing to rest, he sat on the toilet, realizing something was wrong.

Concerned, Malcolm called his family doctor and made an appointment. As he waited at home, his condition worsened. He could barely walk and found it extremely difficult to stand. Recognizing the seriousness of his situation, he relied on his wife to help him move even a short distance.

Living just 10 minutes away from the clinic, Malcolm stumbled and bumped into trees along the way, each step becoming more arduous. Finally, he reached the clinic but had to wait outside before the doctor could see him.

The doctor quickly realized something was seriously wrong with Malcolm and called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. In the ambulance, paramedics asked him questions and checked his condition. They measured his blood pressure and inquired about any pain he was experiencing.

Upon arrival at the hospital, doctors conducted various tests, including brain scans. They discovered a rupture on the right side of his brain. Malcolm was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a condition where a tangle of blood vessels irregularly connects arteries and veins, disrupting blood flow and oxygen circulation. Malcolm was admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit. The experience was terrifying for him, as he was surrounded by other patients in critical condition.

That night in the hospital, Malcolm had a seizure. After the seizure, he couldn’t move half of his body, and his strength dropped drastically. Doctors explained his options: he could try therapies to recover, undergo brain surgery followed by therapy, or opt for radiation treatment along with therapy. Each choice had its risks and challenges. Malcolm asked about the most permanent solution, and the doctor mentioned brain surgery, though it carried high risks of complications. Faced with a tough decision, Malcolm chose to go for the brain surgery.

The surgery was a challenging 12-hour procedure. Before the operation, there were many formalities and paperwork to complete, adding to the tension. Malcolm had to sign documents while preparing for the operation. Going into the operating theatre was intimidating, with doctors explaining procedures and nurses asking questions. During the surgery, Malcolm described feeling like needles were everywhere. After the surgery, he spent time in the ICU, where nurses monitored his condition closely. Malcolm had to prove he could swallow medication and drink water before being allowed to leave the ICU.

Transitioning back to normal life wasn’t easy for Malcolm. He had to undergo therapy to regain his strength and mobility. Initially, he couldn’t move much and needed assistance even for basic tasks. Sharing a hospital room with others recovering from serious conditions was challenging. Seeing other patients' struggles made Malcolm realize the gravity of his own situation and appreciate the progress he was making.

Despite the difficulties, Malcolm remained determined to recover. He focused on following his therapy regimen and staying positive. He knew it would take time, possibly up to six months, but he was committed to regaining his independence. The support of his wife and medical team played a crucial role in his recovery journey.

Although there were moments of discomfort and uncertainty, Malcolm’s determination and the encouragement he received kept him motivated. He pushed through the challenges, confident that he could move forward with his life.

With time, Malcolm realized he had to take charge of his recovery. Beyond the prescribed therapy sessions, he pushed himself to do more. He asked his wife to help him with additional exercises at home, using a chair for support. His determination paid off, and he recovered faster than expected. While doctors initially thought he would need six months to regain mobility, Malcolm was back on his feet in just three months. He credited his progress to his consistent efforts and disciplined approach to therapy.

Returning home was a significant milestone for Malcolm. He continued his exercises and gradually increased his physical activity, progressing from walking to running and cycling. Setting goals for himself, he pushed his limits a little further each day. His company was supportive throughout his recovery journey, understanding his needs and helping him ease back into work. Malcolm appreciated their understanding, especially regarding his limitations and the challenges he faced in public spaces due to his stroke.

Navigating crowded places was a new challenge for Malcolm, given his mobility issues. He had to learn to maneuver through crowds and adapt to different situations. Despite these difficulties, Malcolm remained focused on self-improvement. He turned everyday challenges into opportunities to train and strengthen himself.

Malcolm discovered Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) through his doctor, Dr Loh Yong Joo, who is currently part of SNSA's executive committee as the secretary. Dr Loh guided Malcolm throughout his recovery journey, offering valuable support and advice.

Malcolm expressed deep appreciation for SNSA and its programmes. He is now a befriender with SNSA, where he has met, encouraged, and befriended many new stroke survivors. This role has given him the opportunity to give back to a cause that resonates closely with him.

Additionally, Malcolm is part of the young stroke survivor support group, a community of stroke survivors at SNSA under the age of 50. Being part of this group has provided him with a sense of connection and understanding that is invaluable in his journey of recovery.

Reflecting on his experience, Malcolm describes his stroke as a "blessing in disguise". It not only helped bring his family closer together but also opened up new prospects in his life. Through his involvement with SNSA, Malcolm has found purpose and fulfillment in helping others navigate their own stroke recovery journeys.


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