Guest blog - "Stroke of luck"

Today we publish a guest blog from former screenwriter John about his stroke experience.

Rhine River Iii Best
Rhine River Iii Best

It’s August 1981. That’s me, on the left. I was 17, but I looked about 12!

We were called the Rhine River Three. Our singer looked good but I’m afraid he couldn’t sing. In the days before autotune that mattered.

Why am I showing you this, other than to get a laugh? Well, this was me then. And this is me 37 years later. My brain has blank spots where the cells are dead. I’ve had a stroke in the left hand side of my brain.

That means the right side of my body doesn’t work. Right face doesn’t work. Right leg doesn’t work. Right arm doesn’t work. Of course, I was right handed. This has given me a problem with right and left. Because I now have to use this (left) hand, I assume it’s the right. So if someone says: turn right, I go left. I drove pre stroke. Post stroke I took driving lessons to try to get my licence back. But the right/left thing affected my feet too. As I slowed down at a roundabout, I might suddenly press the accelerator by mistake. Argh!

In short, I didn’t think I would turn out like this. I didn’t want to turn out like this. But I did. It took some getting used to. Like Sheila, my Alzheimer’s aunt, I might still be going strong in 36 years. Argh again!

But after 4 1/2 years, I can finally stand here and say: this is who I am! Some people would like to find out more about strokes and the way they change people. I say ‘some people' because other people don’t want to know. I don’t in any way hold it against people who don’t want to find out more. Till the age of 49, I was one of them! I was much too busy writing screenplays and being a husband and a father to three boys. And I would have liked to have gone on being like that. But life, fate, medical negligence, whatever you want to call it, had different ideas!

Luckily I have the most amazing son. I’m not just saying that. He saved my life, when he was 12. Maybe you’d like to hear the story….

It was July 26th, 2013, a Friday in the summer holidays. My wife was out somewhere in the car, and I decided to take our three boys swimming. We have a hut at Wrabness on the river Stour. You can only swim at high tide when the tide comes in. So we went by train, at about three o’clock in the afternoon. It’s only one stop but then it's about 20 minutes walk, longer when you have a six year old in tow. And it was very hot. 

We stopped for ice creams on the way. Finally we got there and the boys went in the sea while I opened the hut up. Then I started feeling very strange, sat down on the floor, and threw up. And I remember thinking: I must pull myself together before the boys come out. 

Anyway, finally the boys came out and found me. I couldn't talk or move. The eldest was 12 at the time and he found my phone and rang my wife. She was driving home and was about half an hour away. She asked him if there was anyone else on the beach. 

It's always very quiet there but far up the beach he could see a couple and he went and got them. I don't remember them to look at but I think their name was Hitchcock! They came over and took one look at me and quickly called an ambulance. They presumably could see I’d had a stroke. 

The Hitchcocks, if that’s what they were called, looked after me and the boys until a first responder arrived. Then the ambulance couldn't make it down the track to the beach so I had to somehow get in the first responder's car and be driven up to the ambulance. My wife had turned up by now and she came to the hospital with me. And the Hitchcocks took the boys home to our house. And then went out of our lives back to London. 

To be part two of John's blog here.

To read more of John's work please visit his blog: