Subarachnoid haemorrhage survivor Cat on music, gardening and Baobab trees.
Eileen Poole, known as Cat, sustained a subarachnoid haemorrhage in December 2011. She was left with poor balance, fatigue and short-term memory problems.
She's a regular on Headway's online forum HealthUnlocked, giving advice and support to long-timers and newcomers alike.
My son and daughter. They were there every day during my time in hospital, and seeing my transformation from being utterly 'cuckoo' to someone resembling their mum was apparently a really big deal. They're not only thankful for my survival but never seem to take my ordinary, everyday achievements for granted. Their dad, my ex-husband, suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage six months after mine, but died after a period of minimal consciousness, so a brain haemorrhage is life changing for them too.
My dinner guest of choice would almost certainly be the surgeon at Salford Royal Hospital who performed my coiling and who I met, consciously, only once at my recall appointment. He was unremarkable in appearance; a small unassuming Asian gentleman, but with such a massive personality and sense of humour. He was the sort of person who comes out from behind his desk and greets his patients warmly and explains every detail of the procedure whilst pointing to before and after MRI scans. I would love to learn the history of his life; his choices, motivation, training, and how it feels to be a saver of lives.
I suppose the most frustrating aspect of brain injury is the loss of friends owing to my damaged short term memory and focus. I used to love playing devil's advocate just to fuel a debate, but now my poor word recall constantly interrupts my flow of speech so I can no longer keep up a coherent argument. Also, my poor toleration of groups, noise, too much stimulus etc, means I am only really comfortable in one to one situations anyway.
Headway has been a tremendous help in providing a safe place. I know my family would be attentive if I needed to offload my frustrations or anxieties, but I feel they have suffered so much already with my illness and the loss of their lovely dad, so Headway is my bolthole. More than that, it's become a second family where I have social activity with folk who I trust and care about.
My garden. I've never been one for expensive jewellery or other costly items owing to a tight budget, but my garden is a source of inspiration and somewhere I can have complete control, apart from the odd slug, to create my personal little piece of heaven. The first thing I do each morning is look out and, even if I've got out of bed on the wrong side, it never fails to lift my spirits.
Last time I flew, the plane was hit by lightning and I have never wanted to fly again (I know, what are the chances?!) But in an ideal world I would journey to Morondava in Madagascar, to see the Avenue of the Baobabs: the national tree of Madagascar which often grow to 100ft tall and 36ft in diameter. I have even travelled along the avenue on Google street-view!
Music is always a sure escape from stress for me. I use headphones to ensure I'm completely enveloped by it and I have no distractions, or I play it loudly in the car where it can't disturb the neighbours. I like all different genres from classical to pop to rap and from all different eras. Because I often forget to use music as a therapy, it's all the more effective when I do and never becomes just routine.
My answer could be viewed as a negative, but it's a positive for me. I need to live alone. I was miserable at home with a depressive father and throughout a 12 year marriage then a further co-habitation. But as soon as I was single again and it was just me and my kids and I could have relationships if and when I chose, I learned that I am happiest with freedom and with only myself for company.
I frequently comment on how thankful I am that after a lifetime of trying and failing to stop smoking 20 cigarettes daily, after two months of going 'cold turkey' in hospital I was freed of the habit forever and was suddenly WAY better off financially.
Maybe Nicole Kidman, as she has shown her versatility in characterisation of such diverse characters in many different walks of life, something I've always admired in her.
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