Neurological Foundation - Chair of Neurosurgery

There was no warning

Pat's Story

“It was October 2010. I hadn’t had any headaches or anything leading up to it. We had been out for dinner and Tony, my husband [pictured with Pat], was sitting on the couch. I said to him I was going to bed. I must have been in bed, and got up to go to the toilet and all I can remember is sitting on the toilet and then I swivelled around off it and I was down on my hands and knees on the floor. I couldn’t get up. I was still talking though. I yelled out to Tony and Tony came and got me up and put me into bed, but I wouldn’t stay in bed and I just wandered around the room knocking into everything and I sat down saying, ‘ohh, I’ve got the biggest headache’.

“I kept saying, no I’ll wait till the morning, I’ll go and see my doctor in the morning, but Tony took matters into his own hands. He thought I’d had a stroke. I don’t remember anything from then but I was apparently taken to Southland Hospital and given a CT scan which revealed a right frontoparietal intracerebral haematoma reaching to the surface of the brain. I was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital where emergency craniotomy was carried out to evacuate the haematoma plus bone flap decompression.

“The surgeon said later to Tony that I was about a minute away from dying. I was just so lucky that Dunedin had the unit. 

“I woke up and I didn’t know where I was and I couldn’t lift my arm up and I freaked out completely. I couldn’t remember a thing. It was daylight, I must have been moaning and groaning and I had something in my nose and every time I moved, it would drag. I was frightened. 

“After some time, I went to Isis (for about nine weeks), and they were amazing. There was a team who worked together and they helped me with my physiotherapy and memory and speech therapy.

“I lost my peripheral vision. I couldn’t even read in the beginning – because I would over-read lines of text – but then they put a line down the page and that's how I re-learnt to read, and now I can read a book with no problems.  

“They re-taught me to cook and make a sandwich. But when I got home I couldn’t really remember things and Tony had to do most of the cooking and housekeeping. I suffered a lot from depression at the beginning. But the doctors were very good at getting me back on track.

“The way my thought patterns are is so different now. I come out with the strangest things. I can’t judge distances very well anymore and I’m always knocking things over or breaking things. But I’ve retained my sense of humour – which I need. And my taste. I couldn’t taste anything at first, but that’s returning now.

“My mother died of a brain haemorrhage. And because I had had my share of heart problems (I had open heart surgery two years ago), I thought I was going to miss out on the brain stuff – but it didn’t happen like that.”