Shane Witherspoon’s recollection of 17 August 2019 is blurry. It was the day before his 57th birthday and he was at home in Moranbah when he started feeling unwell.
At the time he didn’t know it, but Shane was having a stroke. A deadly clot had formed in the left-side of his brain starving it of oxygen.
His wife Rhondda knew something wasn’t right, so she rushed him to hospital where he was immediately flown to Townsville. From there, the doctors made the decision to send him to Gold Coast University Hospital for clot retrieval.
Gold Coast University Hospital has highly trained Interventional Neuro radiologists who provide clot retrieval services to North Queensland-based patients that sustain a serious stroke.
The Tuesday following his stroke, Shane woke up in a place he didn’t know surrounded by people he didn’t know.
“I couldn’t feel anything, and I couldn’t speak. Half of my body was paralysed, and I didn’t know what was going on. It was bad,” Shane said.
After a week in the Gold Coast University Hospital Intensive Care Unit he was flown back to Townsville, where he would begin his rehabilitation journey. Two months later he was able to continue his rehab at Mackay Base Hospital.
Life after a stroke
Shane’s post-stroke rehabilitation was a gruelling schedule of 9am until 3:30pm but he needed to relearn skills such as walking, speaking and writing. The best way to do this was through carefully directed, well-focused repetitive exercises.
“Within a week of being in the rehab unit they had me up and down in that gym,” Shane said.
“They got me upright and they were holding my leg. The other fella he would stop me from falling and I was walking along the wall.
“The first two weeks were hard; I couldn’t muster it; I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t do anything. I thought to myself ‘what’s the point, what am I doing here?’
“But I battled through with support from Rhondda (my wife) and the staff.”
“Mackay was the first time since my stroke I walked up steps. Every week I would go up and down 16 flights. I did that and it felt great”
Five months after his stroke, Shane was discharged from Mackay Base Hospital and he and Rhondda were finally able to return home to Moranbah.
Shane described the feeling of walking out of hospital.
“That feeling of walking out of hospital was phenomenal. I was that close to having a cry, I just can’t explain it.” he said
Although he is back at home, Shane still heads to Moranbah Hospital most days for rehab and he has a team member from the Hinterland Community Care team visit him once a week. He also travels to Mackay Community Health regularly.
A message for other stroke survivors
Now that Shane is at home, he can return to doing what he loves, woodwork, although it looks a little different. Previously Shane was right-handed, but since the stroke affected this side of his body he must now rely on his left hand. He also has some big goals to return to lawn bowls.
Looking towards his future, Shane has a message of hope for other stroke survivors.
“Don’t give up. There are a lot of people that love you. A lot of people care for you,” he said holding back tears.
“Always you have to have your goals. If you have your goals and keep your family in your loop you are laughing.”
This week is National Stroke Week (2-8 August) and the theme United by Stroke is asking people to learn the F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech. Time) signs of stroke. Knowing the signs could help save a life!