I'm not very close to my father - we have very different views and opinions on things, life, politics and the like - but we've had a couple of significant events in our lives that go to show that blood ties are always strong. He's my dad and I'm his eldest daughter and whether we speak much or not, we are important to each other and know it.
About twenty years ago - perhaps when our relationship was not at its best (nor its worst!) - whilst on holiday in southern Italy, my dad had a massive heart attack. My sister was with my parents, thank goodness, and her outstanding good sense and medical knowledge saved his life without doubt. For a never-ending two weeks, he was kept in hospital in Italy. My mother did her best to play down the seriousness of the situation but I was in contact with the insurance company that were sorting out a return to the UK of the car and caravan. They did not spare any details of how serious things were. I was on the verge of flying out to see him whilst I still could. However, he's made of steely stuff and rallied enough to be flown back with medical attendance. He was initially brought home and I was there to meet the ambulance. That single, endless moment when we were able to hug again still brings tears to my eyes as we unspokenly forgave each other our differences and silently said how much we cared for and loved each other despite those differences.
He went on to recover well from quadruple by-pass surgery and for about fifteen years, he and my mum carried on relatively busy lives and enjoyed holidays abroad every year. And then one year, they were in Madeira and he suffered a stroke. I believe the hospital in Madeira 'under-reacted' to how serious the stroke was. He spent about five days with minimal intervention - no rehabilitation, no prompt engagement to work on affected areas - all of which I think resulted in a worse outcome than might have been otherwise. He was flown back to England again and spent many months in hospital, where it was clear that he would never be the same again.
It's six years on now and he's had a lot of ill health; the slightest infection or virus can knock back any slight improvement in his mobility and reduce him to total dependency on my mother. She has worked hard with him and they do as much as possible to keep busy, go out, maintain their independence but it's sometimes difficult for them both. I worry that the strain and stress of manhandling my father and having always to make sure he is safe and comfortable will, in the end, be too much for my mother and she will lose her health as well. It's actually hard to see one's parents age. And I worry then because my own parents were young when they had their family. I am as old now as my grandmother was when I was Romy's age! I don't feel it and I probably don't look it (in a good light, anyway..) but I am over 50. My dad was just 56 when he had his heart attack. I am so glad I will be able to give him a big hug on his 80th birthday.
Age and health. They make you think!
And so you know - you can recognise a stroke using the FAST test.
FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
TIME to call an ambulance.
If a person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately.A speedy response can help reduce the damage to a person’s brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.
The Stroke Association - more information.