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  • Paul Fink

Understanding trauma

My stroke affected lots of people and were traumatised with situation - especially my wife, family and friends.

I am very (I mean very, very) fortunate to have missed the gory parts of my stroke because my deteriorating brain was damaged very quickly. Eg. I can't remember a lot about my stroke, I can't remember waking up after with the coma, I can't remember my ICU room at Alfred Hospital etc.... hence I am not really traumatised what happened to me. Weird, I know. Yes, I had a little anxiety related to the fear of my stroke reoccurring, but my anxiety is controlled now that I know that it's not possible to happen again, and I now visit the Alfred Hospital often because I have fond memories with the place.

That's why I don't feel scarred by this event. Very weird to say, but I am more scarred by my seizures and post stroke epilepsy than my actual stroke. (I will write a blog about my epilepsy in the future). I have no idea if this common with stroke victims or trauma sufferers or not, but I am certain that I am very lucky to be alive and grateful.

I feel most sorry for my wife, my family and friends because they were here, and they witnessed with almost everything. They were the ones most struggling to cope and comprehend this situation - I heard. One example that my friends organised a Rabbi to come to my friend's house to pray and talk about the situation and circumstances. And other example is this Facebook page - organised by my wife and my brother was attend to that. The messages were heartfelt and beautiful. Reading all the messages, I could see that my stroke impacted so many people, and this page allowed people to express how they were feeling. I am very humbled to be lots of people worried about my welfare.

[This Facebook page was formerly named 'Message for Pauly - in my ICU room].

My ICU room at Alfred Hospital and Facebook messages in the room.

Any traumatic episodes - physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological - are tough to deal with - especially if the shock-value is high, very sudden and unexpected. Eg. Car accidents, falls, natural disasters, medical problems, lost loved ones... of course. strokes. Talking about feelings with therapists or counsellors are helpful in my opinion, not just for the patients but for all the people around them.

As a fit and health conscious 34 year old, you would never expect that I would suffer a massive life threatening brain injury. So for my family this was so unexpected and the impact on them was enormous. That's why post-traumatic stress is terrible and very common with stroke victims or any trauma victims. The person - and the loved ones are affected - sometimes permanently. In my case, I sympathised with my family having to process the sudden unexpectedness of my stroke and almost death.

I never felt that impact of my stroke, like it affected my family and friends because I can't remember the real acute stage. I was never forced to process what was happening of the unknown of whether I would survive. I could never comprehend what they went through until in the last few weeks my family and I witnessed another trauma of our own.

Seven months ago, my family introduced its newest family member, a beautiful little moodle puppy named Finnigan Fink. He was very cheeky, social and beautiful puppy, but last week, he crossed the road and was hit by a car and passed away. He was seven months old. One minute he was here and now the house feels so lonely without him. In a split second we lost a very special friend to each of us.

My wife, my son and I saw the accident. It felt like the whole incident happened in slow motion, and initially we had the incident running over and over in our minds. At the time, Lauren was protecting Oscar to see, and I was rushing to help Finn but the trauma was massive. He was not breathing on the street after 10 seconds, consequently I witnessed Finn's last breath. I drove him to the vet straight-away, and Loz and Oscar followed in a different car but I instantly I know what the result was. The only positive is Finn was died quickly and hence he was not in pain.

A big reason for getting the dog is companion with me. Lauren saw a post at Facebook, discussing the dogs how lots of benefits after stroke. Eg. More responsibility, more exercise and more fun. This is true now, and in the future we possibly will get a new dog but not now while the incident is still so fresh in our minds.

Loz and I are still very sad because Finn was a big part of the family, and I lost my walking and partner. Oscar is 4, and he was semi-understanding the situation. We were very conscious of Oscar's well-being after the incident, and we have been encouraged him to speak, draw and talk about feelings with Oscar.

Until now I could never comprehend the impact of major, life changing, sudden trauma. I now feel more connected with what those around me went through and can appreciate that stroke effects everyone, not just the patient. I can see that after sudden trauma it's important that not just the patient seeks therapy but the family and friends left to support their loved ones too.

I am over three years post-stroke now, and I am still improving, motivated and happy. I'm proud of my family, and how we have dealt with this sudden loss. We've talked a lot about how we feel, we shared our thoughts and comforted each other. I think we've learnt a lot from what we've been through and helped each other to recover.

RIP - Finny always in hearts and on our minds xx

Finnigan Fink

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