'Your eyes are looking out but you can't speak. It's terrifying'
I was three weeks in intensive care and then a further three weeks in the hospital. It was like winning a medical lottery getting into Dún Laoghaire .
I asked the doctor about my prognosis: can I get better, what does it depend on? She said it depended on me. I knew I could depend on myself to get better.
I had to learn to walk again, to wash again – all the things a toddler learns, you have to really learn them again because your brain is now trying to find pathways to link with your muscles.
They give you things to do, like pick up little beads and string them together, to develop finer movement. Everything you do with a toddler you have to do with somebody who has a stroke.
I remember holding the facecloth in my hand and it was just a tonne weight. I couldn’t hold it. It just slipped through my hands. That’s all very hard on your mind.
The student speech and language therapists really helped me. Their intervention was almost immediate. Nobody should ever give out about students.
I was in Dún Laoghaire for 12 weeks. I had set myself a goal to be out by June 30th as a fellow Labour councillor was taking over as chairperson of the council. I had to be there for that.
You never actually recover to 100 per cent because there is muscle damage. You lose the finesse of movement. I am left with a slight limp and there are a number of things I can’t do, like run or dance.
The doctors told me the fact I was a smoker played a big part in my getting a stroke. I’d been smoking well over 25 years.
I used patches while I was in the hospital and the doctor said to me, “If you smoke, you will die.” You very, very quickly figure out what’s important. I had such a good life I did not want to die; I wanted to come back to my life.
The doctor explained that when you smoke, your blood gets sticky, so a clot forms more easily around any strain you have in an artery and it eventually breaks loose and goes to your brain.
My outlook has radically changed since this happened.
I suppose a person sometimes has to go through this kind of experience to see how awful cigarettes are and how detrimental they are to your health.
It’s is a high price to pay. I haven’t smoked since.