Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stroke survivor stories - Shriram Varadharajan, India

The stories of stroke survivors are what drives our fight at the World Stroke
Organization to achieve our goal of a world free from stroke. Welcome to our stroke
survivor stories series, which we'll pop up on the blog every Thursday, you may wish to
contribute to this poignant narrative of stroke globally. Please

Where were you when you had your stroke?
I was in my first year of medical school (Jan 2004, 17 years of
age) trying to distract myself ahead of an internal test the next
day for which I was under prepared. My brother was playing a
computer game and I was standing behind him watching the
screen when suddenly I had an awful sensation on my 
right side, feeling weak and I could not balance myself. 
I eventually fell and wanted to shout for help but could 
only mumble incomprehensible words. My mom rushed to 
my side and found my mouth deviated to one side. We 
quickly realized this was serious and I was taken to my family
physician who recognized this as stroke and directed me to nearest hospital.

Could you access hospital?
I was taken to the emergency services of a tertiary care hospital within a couple of
hours. The neurologist was consulted and imaging was done (initial CT which was
normal and subsequent MRI scan which revealed infarct (area of irreversible damage)
in my left brain which controlled my right side.

What expectations did you have for your treatment, rehabilitation, recovery?
Even though I was in medical school, it was my first year and I had very little idea
about what a stroke meant. However, the feeling of feeling powerless, unable to use
one side of your body was overwhelming and frightening. My treatment was based on
imaging studies and I was put on medications to prevent further clotting of blood.
Miraculously most of my power (ability to use my weakened side) returned within a few
hours and my speech improved as well.

What was your experience of treatment and rehabilitation?
My treatment in hospital continued for the next 2 weeks and I underwent a battery of
tests to find out the cause of the stroke. I was also put on multiple medications to
prevent a secondary stroke (subsequent attacks). I did not require much rehabilitation
since my muscle strength had mostly recovered.

What has helped you in your recovery?
I realized that the only thing that helped me was the awareness to recognise that
something was seriously wrong and to seek medical aid within time.

What have been/are your fears?
My biggest fear initially was that I could suffer another stroke. It was so severe for the
first 6 months or so that I needed to consult my family physician every other day for
minor unrelated complaints. I realized later that it was post-traumatic stress reaction to
my initial stroke.

How did your family and friends feel and respond?

My family (parents, brother and now my wife who is my batch mate in medical school
and fully understands my medical history) have been and continue to be my biggest
strength. They gave me confidence to pursue my life to its fullest. I felt that it (my
stroke) was my calling in life and hence I have always been trying to work in the field
of stroke to help other patients. Currently I have finished my higher specialization in
neuroimaging and interventional neuroradiology and continue to pursue my passion.

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