On 6 November 2010 I had a stroke – a mini stroke, a lacuna (or lacunar) stroke to be exact. I’m fine. I had no paralysis, no loss of strength, no loss of balance and I did not black out. I could hold a pen and write. In fact, I got back on my motorbike and rode for an hour.
I was in France, in Normandy, with some xrv.org.uk pals. We stopped for a coffee and, as I swung my right leg off the bike to stand up, something just didn’t feel right. It was as if I had a dead leg. My right hand then felt like it had pins and needle. I just thought I’d got cold and needed to warm up.
After riding back to our farmhouse (La Basse Cour) – I had total control of the bike but could not feel the heated grips working on my right hand – I jumped in a hot bath to thaw out.
But the symptoms remained. And when I went to dry myself I realised the right side of my face was similarly tingly and lacking in sensation.
The travel insurance company SOS International (on behalf of Chartis Insurance) organised for me to go to the university hospital at Caen, when I ended up for five days while they did a range of tests, including a CT scan, an MRI, a vascular scan of my main arteries and a heart check-up.
They then insisted on driving me in an ambulance all the way home, through the tunnel, delaying my departure by an extra night.
British doctors are repeating all the tests again, which will be great if they find something missed in France but seem a waste of scarce NHS resources if they don’t.
Imagine a little garlic-breathed French man in stripy shirt and black beret with onions round his neck telling an NHS doctor that all his work would been to be redone properly in France later. The NHS doctor would be furious.
I don’t have overly high blood pressure so I am not being treated for that (mine at worst appears to be about 140/92 and often more like 128/86). I am on aspirin to thin the blood. The hospital has sent blood samples for special tests in case there is some impurity that caused the stroke.
But they never know the cause of 25%.
I have been working very hard, so I intend to cut down on that. And the death of my nephew in July led to a lot of stress. Who knows if these things had an impact?
The French hospital was great – very much like an NHS hospital with fantastic, committed, cheerful and helpful staff, and the occasional cock-up where you are left in a waiting room for hours on end with no information.
But being vegetarian was too much for them. Even a dietician seemed not to understanding of the concept or how to provide a balanced diet – Google it, for crying out loud.
Oh, and my travel insurance repatriated me but said it was not responsible for repatriating my vehicle. My breakdown insurance would have brought it back had it broken down. But a working vehicle with a broken driver falls between two policies. I believe my broker has been negligent.
Facebook and Twitter were a Godsend. Many work colleagues kept informed about me and kept me up to speed using Twitter, while Facebook enabled me to have conversations with many friends, all at once.
My rugby club, Charlton Park, picked up on my stroke via Facebook and put a notice on its website, which led to contact from old colleagues via LinkedIn and email.
Vodafone charged me about £10 a day for the data charges in France run up on my Blackberry. Oh, and French hospitals have none of those silly UK bans on using mobile phones. I had mine with me the whole time.