The Collective Consciousness (The C.C.) asked me to invite both Keith (my wonderful life partner) and Veronica (my beautiful daughter) to write down their observations and experiences during the period of my illness between 2013 and 2016. I could not advise them where they were to be published, at the time. However, I am now being inspired to place them here. Following is Keith’s gracious comment:
I have been asked to provide some comment about my observations of the illness that Carolyn experienced from September 2013 to 2016.
It all started one Saturday morning in late September 2013. We had been practising for the South Pacific Ballroom Championships during the week. Throughout the week Carolyn had been suffering from ‘flu-like’ symptoms, and, come Friday, felt that she wasn’t up to competing in a two day competition. We then decided not to go to Sydney for the championships.
On Saturday morning, in order to ‘cheer up’ Carolyn, I suggested that we go to Newcastle for breakfast. Out we went; but on the drive to Newcastle, Carolyn started feeling very unwell. She said that she felt she was ‘in trouble’ and was losing feeling in her left arm. I immediately turned direction and headed off to John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.
We had no idea what was wrong with Carolyn. Nurses took her blood pressure, which was extremely high (274 over around 190). I only clearly remember the first number. Carolyn had a loss of balance as well as numbness in her arm. Medical personal began to treat her for the onset of a stroke.
Over the next week, or so, Carolyn had numerous tests and visits to doctors and specialists. One night at 1:00am Carolyn said she was ‘in trouble’ again, so I called an ambulance and off we went to hospital, again. Visits to the hospital became a common occurrence over the next four months.
I remember on one occasion we were in Maitland hospital. Carolyn had been admitted and was lying down in bed and had been administered drugs to reduce her blood pressure. All was going well, and her blood pressure was down around the 150/110 mark. Ten minutes later a nurse came round, Carolyn was again not ‘feeling well’, and on taking her blood pressure it had shot up to around 250/170.
Again more visits to specialists (cardio-vascular, physicians and neurologists). In February 2014 Carolyn was sent into East Maitland private hospital for two weeks for 24/7 monitoring to try and find out what was wrong.
It wasn’t until around June 2014 that a neurologist indicated that he believed Carolyn was suffering a type of virus. He believed that she would get better, but it might take two years.
It had already been around nine months since Carolyn contracted this virus, and it had been completely debilitating, as it had effectively made her bed ridden 24/7. Carolyn wasn’t capable of going anywhere. It was an extreme chore to do anything. Carolyn needed assistance to even wash her hair. My cooking skills certainly improved.
In addition to cooking I took on all the other household duties; laundry, ironing, vacuuming and the like. This was in addition to running my own business.
Emotionally, this illness really tested Carolyn. There were many occasions when we would be sitting watching television, and she would simply start crying. Not from what was on television (or anything I had done, or not done) but from the fact that she just couldn’t do anything. Even listening to the television, radio or music was a chore. Every simply day-to-day event, that we all take for granted, was simply getting too difficult for her. Every time Carolyn would try and do something she would invariably feel her blood pressure elevating, and have to stop.
I know that Carolyn often felt that she simply couldn’t continue. I even raised this subject with Carolyn’s daughter, Veronica, and we both regularly let one another know if we felt that there was a problem.
It is difficult to help when you don’t fully understand what is going on. All I could do was to provide help and support, where I could, and try and make life as easy as possible.
After July 2014, the neurologist referred Carolyn to a physiotherapist who gave various exercises to try and help her regain physical balance. One of the exercises involved walking forwards, and then backwards, on alternate white and black squares (a bit like walking on a chess board). Once she could master this, she then had to do the same exercise but with turning her head, at the same time, in a set order. I thought this unusual, and I even tried it and found it not that easy.
The next stage was to do the same exercise, walking on the white and black squares, turning her head and moving each arm, at the same time, in a set pattern. While Carolyn eventually mastered this exercise after 6 months, despite many attempts, I couldn’t do it!
When Christmas 2014 came around, Carolyn was still feeling depressed and couldn’t see herself ever getting better. The fact that she had been house bound for so long, and really not able to do much without continually resting after carrying out any basic task, continued to take its toll. This was also coupled with the fact that Carolyn had virtually no outside contact with friends. This wasn’t because Carolyn didn’t want to see friends, but rather it took too much effort to even sit down and talk with anyone, me included.
All of this continued for another six months.
It wasn’t until around September 2015 that Carolyn felt that she was, in fact, getting better.
Then on 11 December 2015, Carolyn asked if we could go on a holiday.
“Sure, if you think you are up to it. Where would you like to go?” I asked, thinking that it might be something like drive or fly to Melbourne for a few days.
“Copenhagen,” was the reply. I was stunned.
“So when would you like to go,” I asked.
“Christmas,” was the response. I was still surprised, as Christmas was only two weeks away. So I countered with.
“Do you really think you are up for it? I can’t carry your bags as well as mine.”
Carolyn was determined that she wanted to go to Copenhagen, and that she felt she would manage. So the next day, off we went to the travel agent, booked our holiday, and on 27 December flew to London and then Copenhagen for two weeks, stopping over in Singapore for a few days on the last leg home.
The holiday was a great success. While there were several days that Carolyn had to rest most of the day in our hotel, the trip appeared to rejuvenate her, and she really seemed to regain her sense of life and spirit.
In March 2016 we went to our first social dance. We didn’t do much dancing, but again the renewed social contact for Carolyn continued to lift her, both mentally and physically.
I have to admit that six months previously, if anyone had asked, I would never have expected to see a dance floor, or to dance with Carolyn again.
It’s now September 2016, three years since Carolyn became ill, and we have been going to a social dance regularly once per week for six months.
The change in Carolyn has been terrific, and she has found a renewed interest in dance and going out and socialising. While Carolyn still has a way to go to be fully recovered, she is well on the way; and every day looks a little brighter and so much more enjoyable for both of us.