Yannis Henderson, 61, has two daughters and six grandchildren. From the age of 14 he worked full time and hardly had any days off sick. Then in July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, his life changed. This is his story…

Saturday 4th July started just like my normal day off. I had just finished my set of five 2pm till 10pm shifts. I did my normal routine around the home, watching the sport on TV with the radio on in the kitchen while I prepared tea for my wife and myself. I always have a bottle of wine and two beers spread out that last me till bedtime. Around 5pm my wife and I watch a nice film. She normally goes to bed after the film as she has to be up early for work the next day. Usually I would stay up and watch Match of the Day, but this Saturday night I decided to go up to bed at 10pm. This meant that for the first time in ages I did not drink my two bottles of beer.

At approximately 11pm, I woke up, shouting and shaking my wife to help me as I knew something was wrong. My arm was numb. I did not even think it was attached to my body. It was a very strange feeling. My wife phoned the ambulance, but as the pubs and clubs were on the first day of opening after lockdown we were told they would be here as soon as possible due to being extra busy. My wife then decided to telephone our youngest daughter who lives around the corner and had just qualified as an Occupational Therapist for help. My daughter went through the FAST assessment (Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time) and did some other assessments. She worked hard to keep my wife and I calm.

The ambulance took just twenty minutes, which was fast considering the circumstances. I was rushed to James Cook University Hospital where I spent a time in A&E until I had some assessments competed. Then I was triaged to Ward 28, however I had to had a Covid-19 test before I could enter. I waited in a side ward until I got my negative result. This was where I first felt my anxiety. I was alone and did not know if I would come out of hospital or when I would speak to my loved ones again. I was thinking Covid-19 had a lot to answer for.

That night I had my first brain scan and lots of monitoring. I did not sleep. I was too scared to close my eyes and the ward was full of people who were poorly. The next morning, I had no money, clothes, or charge on my phone. Usually you could just pick up the phone and ask your loved ones to bring what you need when they come to visit. But due to Covid-19 this was not going to happen. I felt alone.

The consultant came and confirmed that I had had a stroke in my left hand side cortex with a blood clot in my neck. As it was caught quickly and we had acted fast, this made the stroke milder.

I really missed my family. I knew the nurses were constantly keeping my family updated. However, I missed hearing their voices. Once I was mobile, my wife rang the ward and I was able to speak to her. It felt like it had been ages, but it had been just a day. Sunday was spent having assessment after assessment with the Occupational Therapist who was on duty. These made me really tired. After the assessments I was feeling low. I still could not use my hand.

Why me? I asked.

Once discharged, I was informed that I would be put on the list for another brain scan and that I would be referred to the early support discharge team along with the stroke association. My intervention for the early support discharge team was great, however I was shocked to see a physio at my door wearing full PPE. I hadn’t been thinking about the effects of Covid-19. The stroke association intervention was done over the phone as face to face consultations were cancelled, due to the pandemic.

After the intervention stopped, and my wife had to return to work, I would just sit at home and look at the four walls around me. I had no visitors due to the local restrictions. The days ran into each other, with hours feeling like a week. I found myself looking out of the bedroom window waiting for my daughters to visit. This felt like hours but in reality it had been only ten minutes since they rang to say they were coming over. I would fall sleep on them. However they always stayed so when I woke up the house was not empty.

One day I woke up to a buzzing in my head and was very dizzy. This went on for a few days until my daughters and my wife said it needed to be sorted. So we rang the doctors and got a telephone appointment. I have been referred to a sleep clinic but due to Covid-19 the waiting list is a bit higher than expected. The ringing in my ear will not be sorted till March 2021 due to face to face appointments being on hold.

Today, I am living my life as best I can. I am still doing my hand exercises and small walks when I am not too tired. I have started to fill the hours of the day by doing jigsaws and working on my fine motor skills. I still cannot drive so I rely heavily on others to take me to appointments. My independence has been taken away from me, but I will still fight on. At first, I was thinking, why me? What if I had decided to drink those two beers? I still feel like a young man, far too young to have a stroke. But now it is time to block the negative thoughts and remember what I have in this present day, a loving family and massive support. Things I have learned are to cut down on fats, beer and sugar and try to just eat healthily.

I want to thank all the staff at James Cook Hospital Ward 21 for all their care and compassion, throughout the pandemic. Keep up the good work.


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