Survivor Stories

Why Me?

Post on 18/06/16

By Leong Wai Nam
Stroke Survivor, 1992

“If you are not 100 percent fit, how can you play in the tournament?” My soccer players often passed this scathing comment to one another to underscore the importance of fitness.

I was elected the team manager-cum-secretary and would lead the soccer team to the Annual Triangular Soccer Tournament in Hong Kong early September 1992. Little did I know that I would experience one of the lowest points of my life.

On the dreadful morning of 29 August 1992, I woke up at about 2 a.m. to drink some water. While I was drinking, I choked suddenly, and felt a swift weakness on the right side of my body. When that happened, I did not know what had struck me or what to do. I just struggled and limped back to bed.

Later that morning, the weakness remained and I could not stand upright. My body was leaning towards my right. I knew something had gone terribly wrong when I could not even fasten my own shirt buttons. I visited my private practitioner, who quickly sent me to the hospital after telling me that I had suffered a stroke. I was 59 years old then.

What is a stroke?

Question (small)

I did not understand the meaning of a stroke at first. A number of friends visited me. Some offered advice, while some seemed to shun me – either because of my slurred speech or my inability to move properly. I felt very inferior, depressed, fearful, lonely, frustrated and humiliated. I secretly asked God why this brain attack – the stroke – had to happen to me. I had not harmed anyone in my life. In my working life, I had always covered up for my colleagues, even taking blame for their mistakes.

My mind began to wonder what would happen to me in the future. Although I did not have diabetes, and neither smoked nor drank alcohol, my cholesterol was slightly high, and I had a certain degree of hypertension, stress, worry and anger.

Finally, one young friend of mine told me that his father, who was a few years my senior, had a stroke too. His father survived and later recovered. His first word of encouragement to me was to give acupuncture a try. He said that the Chinese medical technique would help release the pressure points in my body. He also encouraged me to exercise regularly and watch my diet.

My young friend’s words jolted me to end my self-pity, and gave me the resolve to fight back to regain normalcy and achieve a better quality of life.

whyme2After my discharge from hospital, I worked hard to regain my faculties. My speech therapist helped me to speak properly again. I learnt to venture into places outside my HDB flat by walking down the staircase on my own, holding onto the railing and leaning against the wall. I did stagger and fall twice due to my weak legs. But I picked myself up and continued. It was painful, but I told myself that I must not give up.

I also went for acupuncture for about six months, beginning with once a week for two months and thereafter twice a month. My daily light exercise began at 5.30 a.m., followed by meditation. Eventually, I also bought a book on yoga as I felt that my legs were too weak for exercises that required standing. I practised yoga on alternate days and watched my daily diet to rebuild my health. These included taking vitamins, nutrition, ginseng and other Chinese herbs. Later, through a reputable health institute, I acquired the knowledge of foot reflexology for relaxation and release of pressure points. I tried applying this method to my stroke friends and they commented that they had their cerebral tensions released.

Today, all my body functions have almost been restored. I would consider myself “normal” now. Work-wise, I can do my accounting and administrative duties without problems. However, if I speak for too long, slight slurring still occurs. Indeed, I want to thank my God and friends who had been so caring and understanding in helping me to recover within just four months of that eventful morning.

Stroke can happen to almost anyone. It has happened to me. It has happened to many people in Singapore and around the world, young and old. Why me? I may never have the answer. But I now know that we can overcome the consequences of stroke through sheer determination and a hopeful spirit.

I would like to encourage all my fellow stroke survivors: Always remember that no doctor, therapist or caregiver can help you if you do not have the self-belief and take the initiative to improve yourself. Work hard. You will see results.

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