Adrian and Ainslee's Story
Cambridge-based Adrian Carr was only a few days away from celebrating his 69th birthday when he experienced three life-changing strokes on June 10, 2022.
A qualified Chartered Accountant, Adrian had worked in stressful financial executive positions all his working life.
"I worked for years and years in stressful environments - constant deadlines, demanding staff and customers," he recalls.
Retired since 2018, Adrian says that multiple knee replacements and a foot reconstruction surgery had caused him to forgo his passion for sports. Around this time, Adrian was also diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat or Atrial Fibrillation, as he had Tachycardia or a fast heart rate. To keep this under control, Adrian was medicated with beta-blockers, which act as a sort of handbrake for the heart.
"I've been ambling along for the past few years because of these issues, and I'd ballooned in weight," Adrian reflects.
A person with an irregular heartbeat is five times more likely to have a stroke. Adrian had to be on blood thinner medication, to prevent a stroke from happening.
The week leading up to his stroke, Adrian was scheduled to have a colonoscopy. The doctor asked Adrian to go off his blood thinning medication for three days, as it would affect the procedure. On the night after having his procedure, unfortunately, Adrian experienced strokes as he was falling asleep. His wife, Colleen, remembers the life-changing episode vividly.
"Adrian woke up screaming, jumped out of bed and just sat up straight. It gave me such a fright," Colleen remembers. "He asked me to hold him up, and I was horrified when he told me that something's exploded in his ear".
Adrian's face had begun drooping on the right-hand side, while his vision was blurring, and his hearing was impacted. Colleen immediately rushed to the lounge to call 111.
"Luckily, an ambulance was just passing by our neighbourhood and Adrian was able to get to the hospital, where the staff were fantastic and injected him with blood thinners," she remembers.
Adrian spent the next fortnight in the hospital, doing physio and speech-language therapy, which continued for an additional month when he returned home.
"He's still having problems with fatigue, and we tend to do most things in the morning. By the afternoon, you can tell he is getting tired because his speech deteriorates," says Colleen.
Adrian likens the onset of fatigue to the approach of a "big black cloud". The hearing in Adrian's right ear was 100% affected initially, but he is slowly regaining it.
"We had a lot of great support post-stroke and when Danielle from the Stroke Foundation came along, she was fantastic for us," says Adrian.
Danielle Greer, our Community Stroke Advisor in North Waikato, has been affected by stroke herself and uses her lived knowledge of the condition to break the ice with her clients.
"It was amazing to hear Danielle say that she'd been through it all when Adrian voiced the changes he was going through," adds Colleen.
Danielle has connected Adrian with a community group near his suburb, of people affected by stroke.
Her husband's experience has been traumatic for Colleen, with her admitting that she had trouble sleeping at night as she kept listening to Adrian breathe. Counselling sessions have helped her cope with her new role as a carer and joining a walking group has allowed her to have a social outlet from the strains of caregiving. Adrian has gotten into the habit of practising his golf swing in his yard, which he says has been helpful for regaining his balance and his confidence. Despite the challenges he has faced, Adrian's attitude to life is positive and reaffirming.
"I've beaten stroke this time and it's reminded me that life is short, I can't help but be positive thinking about how lucky I am to be alive," he concludes.