9 months post-stroke, how am I doing?
I’m pretty certain there was some initial recovery and a bit more followed over the next few months. Now on my right hand side I can see quite a lot but a big blind spot remains and I doubt it will go away.
Out of my left eye I can’t see anything right of centre. From my right eye I can, but there’s a hole. Not a black hole, nor a white one; just a place where I don’t see anything.
I had a miserable time reading at first and really believed I would be permanently reliant on assistive software.
But I just kept trying to read unaided. Someone said “That’s the worst thing you can do, you should be resting your eyes” but I ignored that. It was wrong and I knew it.
And in time I learned to move my head instead of my eyes. Practicing was never a chore or even conscious. Now my reading is pretty fluent again, although it will never recover entirely.
I was used to personal transport and took it for granted. Losing it was hard. A temporary driving ban is imposed as a punishment but the stroke meant a lifelong ban. I’m still getting used to this.
I am anxious going far from home, but less so recently. Sometimes I worry that my judgement might be damaged and that’s a hard feeling to get over. I don’t believe it is, but I worry all the same.
I tire more easily, especially after a long work day away from home. Stroke survivors often experience fatigue.
I think in my case it’s because with impaired vision every act of seeing is more laborious. Stroke survivors with other impairment get tired easily for essentially the same reason: something once easy now takes twice as much time and effort.
My work as a teacher has continued very well. Some tasks take longer than before but my employer recognizes that and has made adjustments. Occasionally my visual impairment cause me to overlook something. For example a student wrote an essay, included a word count in the right-hand margin.
I can’t spot things over there, it catches me every time, even proofreading this post I’ve written myself. So I missed the count, and thought the student had omitted it. So then I had to “out myself” and explain to the student. Maybe I should have done it sooner. I still don’t really know what to tell students.
If I put something down and forget where it is then it’s extremely hard for me to locate it.
For example a parcel came through the post, I moved it, and then couldn’t find it anymore.
The problem is we use peripheral vision to direct our gaze and a hole in the peripheral vision means we can’t do that very well.
Will I have another stroke? There is clearly a serious risk. Over 10 years about a third of stroke survivors experience a further stroke. In fact about 10% have another in the first year. The Stroke Association has published very useful statistics.
All I can do is take a few precautions and my meds and be alert for symptoms.
Apart from that I guess I just have to live with it.
9. Looking forward
The experience of stroke and vision loss changed my life, not just because of my impairment. As well as my regular teaching I’ve begun giving sessions on studying with vision loss and I have a special interest in this now because I can understand the problems far better than before. I’ve also become a volunteer with the Stroke Association.
So I have followed a different road from the one I expected a year ago but have enjoyed every step of the journey and would not want to go back to where the paths forked.