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Friday, 18 March 2016

A Stroke of Misfortune



I haven't been doing too much writing of late, but am trying to get back into it. My brain wants to do it. The other day, I woke up at 6 am with a really good line of prose hanging in my head. I got up, went into the spare room to write it down in case it disappeared (as usually happens.) I'd snuggled back down into bed again when the other half of the idea dropped into my brain. So I had to get up again...

The reason I've not been writing is that I had a stroke. And the main reason it's taken me so long to share this news is that I couldn't believe or accept it. I still can't, really. I flinch on writing or saying the word; it feels surreal and embarrassing - like swearing in front of your nan.

                                                                                                            Beautiful flowers from my mum

But I'm much improved already (five months on). I was lucky to survive, but unlucky it happened at all. For me this means a daily mental tug of war. Happy versus angry. I'll try not to rant about misdiagnoses and clinical incompetence on this post.

I'll try.

I escaped with no seriously disabling features and few outwardly obvious signs. A bonus, for vanity's sake. But I'm not mended yet. I have residual vertigo (constantly improving), partial numbness down my right side (like frostbite crossed with dead-leg) and recent burning nerve pain that makes it hard to rest the laptop on my knee. But the worst symptom right now is sciatic bum pain when sitting. Great problems for a writer.

In hospital. Droopy eye thing 

I have some horrible pictures that I can't quite bear to put up here, so I'm going to post the best of a bad bunch. My left eye was visibly droopy for months afterwards, worse in the early stages. This is due to something called 'Horner's Syndrome' - caused by cranial nerve damage . Thankfully this has pretty much resolved now.

View from my hospital bed

I was admitted to B3 of the QMC in Nottingham before being transferred to the crazy Neurology ward once they finally worked out what was wrong with me. I can't remember which ward this is above. Overall I was in hospital for five horridly fascinating days.

         Pureed hospital food whilst I couldn't swallow properly

But I'm jumping ahead. My stroke hit on 8th October 2015 at four in the morning. I awoke with a numb right leg and a problem with my swallowing. I rolled out of bed to find I couldn't walk properly. Funnily enough, I thought I might have had a stroke because I know the symptoms (from working in a hospital.) However, when I asked Rick if my face looked wonky he said "No" - adding on closer inspection - "but I haven't got my eyes in yet."

Even with his contact lenses in I didn't look any different, so we dismissed the stroke theory. And, anyway, it seemed preposterous that I would have had a stroke. I'm under fifty and relatively fit. My blood pressure is okay and I regularly exercise. I eat healthily. I no longer smoke. I still drink a bit too much at times but who doesn't? People far worse than me haven't 'stroked out.' It was the last thing I ever expected to happen to me and, once in hospital, I discovered I was right and wrong.

I had had a stroke, but my risk factors were very low. So, in effect, I shouldn't have had one - as I'd first assumed.

Frog's legs with sexy compression stockings on

The story of that day is so painfully long that I'll try to cut it short. I ended up in AMRU at QMC - which is like a referral A&E, where we spent 12 miserable, anxious hours. Nobody could diagnose me. All the clinicians, doctors and consultants we saw were baffled by my symptoms. I ended up on a drip because I couldn't eat or drink; I was shivering, sitting in a fucking waiting room chair. I was in agony.

        Can you tell what it is yet?

I now know just about everything about my condition. I have researched extensively since it happened. I know that strokes in 'younger adults' are pretty rare, and the cause of mine yet rarer still. However, I am still bitter about the fact that medical experts failed to spot this unfurling disaster, on numerous occasions before it happened then once it had happened and was staring them in the face. Breathe. Calm.

    The puddings were actually quite nice :)

So. Yes, I'd had symptoms leading up to this. Six weeks of headaches and neck-ache which became so excruciating I was signed off work. I'd had a visit to A&E, one month before the stroke, with disabling vertigo and vomiting. The problem was diagnosed as positional vertigo and neuralgia and I was put on painkillers. But what had actually happened was that my vertebral artery had split, probably due to minor trauma (hyper-extended neck at the hairdresser's, neck cracking adjustment at the osteopaths, practising yoga, lifting weights, etc - I'd done all of these things in the months leading up to my star turn.)


This type of arterial damage is called a dissection. And once it's happened, the inner wall of the artery tears further and blood clots start to form. These clots readily break off, lodging further up inside the smaller arteries of the brain - causing a stroke (if you are unlucky enough.) Goodo.

                                                                             Struggling to find a flattering angle. Ha!

I was finally diagnosed on symptoms and circumstances rather than from the inconclusive MRI/MRA. But a repeat scan recently confirmed the dissection (now healed) plus damning evidence of the small stroke in the left brain-stem (Medulla). I'm therefore official. And now left with another rarity called Wallenberg Syndrome - a collection of ongoing symptoms due to the damage in that particular area of the brain. These issues will gradually improve; my swallow is significantly better already though I still struggle with dry foods and have to be constantly attentive with fluids. I don't know if the pain will resolve, or whether I'll ever be able to sense temperature on my right side again :( Oh yeah, I also have a faster pulse and dry eye syndrome...



But I "mustn't grumble" - as my Granddad used to say. At least I'm still alive :)

                                                                                   Home from hospital. Cat helped :)  






Famous dissection cases: Sharon Stone, Andrew Marr, and the deceased Aussie cricketer Phillip Hughes. R.I.P


Other links: Strokes in Younger Women.


Thanks for reading. Hopefully my next blog post will be all about the bloody novel, lol. :)





Friday, 20 November 2015

Abnormal is short-listed for a free Professional Critique :)







I almost bagged a free professional critique from author James McCreet through Writing Magazine, UK. Here I am, short-listed in it: 









                                 Every little (boost) helps :) 










Sunday, 26 July 2015

First Draft of ABNORMAL complete...



End of Round One:




First rewrite completed ✓
First hangover since rewrite completed ✓
Sleepless night reviewing plot-holes ✓
Anxiety attack over length of time spending writing Abnormal ✓
Second hangover in the making ✓


But bit-by-bit, word-by-word, the task moves closer to completion and it will surely all be worth it in the end.... 




See you again for Round Two :)









                                      FACEBOOK PAGE








Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Nottingham Writers' Conference 2015




Whoops...


Haven't blogged for so long that I struggled to open a new post


Not good


The editing of Abnormal is going okay though - hence my lengthy absence


I went to the #wemconf2015 WEM Writers' Conference 2015 last weekend with the lovely Cat Roberts-Young


Similar format to last year. Here is a taster in pictures:
 
 
 
Writers Tracey Holland(@auroranemesis)& Cat Roberts-Young(@catcopycreative)


Meeting other writers :)
 
 


Mingling WEM peoples



The Goody Bag table - (Keep calling them Doggy Bags. Similarly tasty, perhaps)
 
 


WEM Doggy Bags



A quick selfie whilst waiting for the next talk...
 
 


Moi


Maureen Duffy - Keynote Speaker - delivers an interesting writer-reality-check talk.
'Don't give up the day job'
 
 


Maureen Duffy



The talk on Freedom to Write was thought-provoking. Writers' responsibilities and considerations - particularly in lieu of the Charlie Hebdo Tragedy. I also listened to an entertaining natter on Writing Humour/Satire (something I do need help with). And the final talk my little brain strained to absorb was the gritty Nuts and Bolts of Writing. All useful and well put-together stuff :) 
 
 


Self-censorship talk



Author Alison McQueen and Literary Agent from Lucas Alexander Whitley - Ben Clark (@BenjaminBenamor)
 
 
 
 
 
The ever-popular Agenty talk
 



Now Cat and I will say Goodbye. (Aha, poet not novelist!)




Adieu
 
 
 
 



 
 
 

Friday, 9 January 2015

How to be a loser #beabestseller

Happy New Year everyone!!
 
I didn't win the ITV's This Morning beabestseller thingey.

I watched it, out of curiosity, and tried being happy for the finalists :)
Well done!
 
And I'm over it now.

And, to celebrate nothing, here's a spacey picture of another world - taken through the window whilst on route to Cyprus last September :)

 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Be A Bestseller Novel Competition 2014 #beabestseller


 
 
 
I've found a subject to briefly talk about, (being as I've written nothing on the blog in ages.)
 
ITV's This Morning and Curtis Brown Literary Agents are running a Competition for novel writers, called Be A Bestseller.
 
The competition only runs for a mere 10 days!
 
I was keen to enter until I spotted the fact that the finalists have to go on TV.
 
 
 
Now it's not that I expect to be a finalist, obviously, but when you're not the sort of person who would voluntarily step into the limelight, these horrific eventualities must be considered.
 
My first thought was therefore: There is no way on earth that I'm entering this competition.
 
But I continued reading about it anyway...
 
I noticed that it was free to enter. That I could win a place on a Creative Writing Course. I could end up being represented by Curtis Brown (with whom I have had communications before)...
 
Ultimately I could end up with my book being published.
 
I already have a shapely 3000 words of ABNORMAL edited, plus a synopsis that just needs trimming. Is it ridiculous to be too scared to enter?
 
I wonder how many other writers won't enter for the very same reasons.
 
A lot, methinks.
 
 
          CB READERS ALREADY DEVOURING COMPETITION ENTRIES, COURTESY OF @CBCREATIVE

 
 
So I HAVE to enter, don't I?
 


 

More on my facebook page :)



Thursday, 7 August 2014

Mission Accomplished



So, the book is written. Mission, accomplished.

And I’ve had a little rest.

Abnormal was fun to write. I hope you’ve enjoyed following it.  From the brilliant comments I’ve had, throughout its creation, it would appear you have; so that’s all good.

I’ll keep you posted on Abnormal’s development from here on. Its successes or failures, highs or lows. Hopefully its publication, ultimately :)

I may come here for a whinge, or to share some cats.

So keep an eye on my Updates page.

I’m removing the book from the blog as of now, but I'll leave a Sample behind for anyone coming in late.


Thanks again for all your invaluable support and interest in my overwhelmingly ridiculous project.

 

Sara Jane Sheikh J









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