This looks like a normal family holiday photo. But it is actually testament to one man’s resolve to recover from a brain haemorrhage.
In December 2013, East Garston resident Matt Henson suffered a brain haemorrhage caused by over-exertion during our village fun run. Only about 40% of patients survive such a haemorrhage for more than a month.
Matt found himself in hospital not being able to move, speak, pee or eat properly. His core muscles had collapsed and there was nothing the doctors could do to help.
But the determination that lead to his stroke also fuelled his recovery. By the end of May 2014 he was back at work full-time but he still couldn’t run or balance properly or feel sensation in his fingers.
After three years of hard work and physio, this summer has seen a new leap in Matt’s recovery. Here are excerpts from his facebook diary:
“What a ride the last six weeks have been. More change in the shortest period ever! Foot sensation and control is an order of magnitude better, core stability and balance is a night and day improvement and right-hand responsiveness is just bizarrely amazing.
“So much change at the moment, sensation in my fingers started with temperature shortly after my stroke, then over the last 18 months pressure sensitivity returned but the last two weeks has seen light touch retuning. It is wonderful but it so so exhausting mentally. It is impossible to describe – imagine how it feels to be permanently aware that you have sensation. No wonder babies sleep so much.
“Very happy but unbelievably knackered. I know it has made me grumpy (apologies to my family and friends), would like a rest but want more at same time. Given I don’t appear to be to control it, I may as well enjoy the results.”
“A milestone at Centre Parcs. I now have regained enough core strength and symmetry to be able to stand and balance at the top of the bouncy slide.
“I always feel better when my physio notices big improvements. We have spent the last two years trying to stabilise my hips and core strength and have finally succeeded. Next is to get my ankle back to normal, more torture I am sure: but no pain, no gain. Onwards and upwards…I will run again!”
“Pleasant brain change last night that snuck up from nowhere. It is hard to explain changes – most people have never lost all sensation in their fingers so can’t imagine the impact. The main one is that you have no idea that you are holding something unless you can see yourself doing it.
“As sensation returns you can increasingly hold and sense finer items. I am now familiar with changes. Then the overwhelming need to sleep strikes and my whole right side ‘glows’ – but last night was an unusual surprise as I normally sense change a week in advance. Anyway, 13 hours of sleep later and I found picking up a piece of paper was so much easier. It is only a slight incremental change but enough to make life that little bit better.
“I was lucky that my stroke affected only my physical ability. Some people lose cognitive or emotional ability and speech is often affected because there are so many areas of the the brain that allow us to communicate in words – but with time and effort they too can still achieve a recovery.”
Matt still has a long way to go before he can do any fast physical movements or run again. The brain anticipates every movement we make, but after a stroke that ability needs to be relearned. It starts with slow movements, but over time, it gets faster and faster.
Along with that is stamina as a damaged brain tires easily but again the more you push, the stronger it gets.
Matt is on track to achieve his goal of 100% recovery in seven years. The determination to win the fun run that pushed his body over the edge in the first place is now driving him to be able to run once again – but he has promised his family he will never race again!