Matt: Well I was 38, so it's a little over two years ago now. I had had nearly two weeks of the most debilitating migraine sort of situation I can ever imagine anybody ever dealing with. I had very little appetite, I could barely walk to the car. I'd been to about every medical specialist I could think of that might have an answer as to what was causing the headache.

So I'd started off at my dentist because it was sort of sitting in the jawline. I went to my GP, I went to an osteopath, the dentist referred me to a facial surgeon, the GP had MRI's arranged and CT scans and they didn't show anything.

I had two visits to the emergency department with various tests done and no causes found.

And then after 12 days I came home from one more appointment.

I took a couple of tablets that had been prescribed and lay down on the couch and I sort of woke up, my partner was messaging and I sort of yeah woke up and I couldn't get out from underneath the blanket that I'd pulled over my shoulders and I thought I'd wrapped it around underneath myself.

And then I sort of lost consciousness again and it sort of went backwards and forwards a little bit over 20 minutes to half an hour before I sort of realised that it wasn't that I was trapped, it was that I couldn't move my left side at all.

So yeah, then it was suddenly your brain kicks into gear a little bit more and, but no I have to be awake now, I need to get up and push myself up with my right side and fell because everything on the left was just dead weight.

I had to scrabble back around to fetch the phone, called Ellie, and she was already in the car, so she raced home and called the ambulance from there.

They took me in and I was given a quick assessment in Resus and then rushed into CT where they confirmed that a stroke had occurred.

I'd dissected both my carotid arteries and the right hand side had thrown a clot up, which then rendered the left side paralysed. I've got all my feelings and control are back.

There's some patches that have a slightly altered sensation, but by and large it's fine. I had, or still have a paralysed left vocal fold, so I had a lot of speech pathology to get my voice back. I could talk at a whisper level, pretty much straightaway.

I had a bit of difficulty with bready foods and swallowing some of that initially, but that all sort of came back online.

But that vocal fold remains paralysed, so I've been taught how to compensate to project my voice.

Physically within a given day, you'd say you'd almost see me as 100% recovered. But then, you know, sort of the next day I might spend most of the day in bed.

Saran: Do you have a child or children?

Matt: We've got two children, so our daughter Harriet is six now, and Elliot was born three months after my stroke, so Ellie was pregnant with him when it all unfolded.

I have a pronounced tendency to fall asleep at story time. If I'm reading, I'll keep talking, but my eyes will have shut and I won't be, I won't even necessarily be trying to keep the story going from memory. It'll just be random words devolving into noises before I'm right out to it. Or she starts prodding me to, no, no, no, that's not how it goes Dad. Wake up, start again.

And yeah we sort of power along through to the end of the story and usually fall asleep side by side. And then half an hour or so there for me. And then I get up and do the evening chores and then we go to bed.

Yeah, yeah.

Saran: Obviously, with your wife pregnant at the time when you had the stroke, how did that, did the relationship sort of change, what were the dynamics of that change?

Matt: I hesitate to use the word, but there was a huge issue of trust with her.

And it's not that I was about to go and do something silly, but that another event might happen. She had to build up faith in my physical form again.

And I guess to achieve that, she took a month off work and then when she went back to work, we set up a roster system of buddies. So I wouldn't be home by myself. Somebody would arrive within an hour or so of her leaving and hang out with me for the day.

And then by the end of that month, there was enough faith that things were going to be alright once you sort of she's able to see the day to day improvements, then that sort of found its own way back to a new normal as well.

Saran: The person that you are now, if you could give yourself advice when you first had the stroke, what would it be? What would you say to yourself?

Matt: I'm just looking over the back of the iPad screen and Ellie's wallet is open with the Medicare card hanging out. Because we're not married, we weren't recognised by Medicare as a family unit and we would have saved a lot of money that first year if we had had things set up properly with however, it is, the government recognises your relationship and nobody had thought to tell us.

I guess it only took about 10 minutes in the Centrelink office, but it took quite a while of going ah, this is what the problem is, and being able to solve it.

Nobody seemed to really want to be able to help you through it. I ended up having to just go in and do it myself. What is it, it's the safety net threshold or something where if you if you get quite sick and you're a single person, the threshold is very high before you get increased benefits from Medicare. But if you're in a family it's only a few hundred dollars.

And yeah despite having all the correct things as far as tax and Centrelink and family benefits were concerned, there is no automated process to take it through to Medicare so yeah that stung us a little bit in that first year when you sort of literally every week going back to the doctor for something.

There's always been that hesitancy to ask for help and it's, it's very silly because when we have had to ask, nobody has ever said no and they've not even hesitated they're always jumping up to say, yeah, I can do that, and is there anything else?

We're, we're not, we're not on our own.


And I guess we probably could have made things a lot easier for ourselves as well if we had been willing to ask earlier in the piece as well.

Saran: Yeah.

Matt: I guess the only other thing to be aware of is every little step forward, no matter how small it is, it's something to celebrate and focus less on what's lost and a little bit more on what you are gaining along the way. And you'll be a lot happier for it.