‘When I poured hot water on my body, my left side was cold’: Stroke survivor tells his story

alt="man holding his own hand" Surviving stroke (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

It was a February afternoon in 2021, and Sheen Figeredo was on a train to Mumbai from Kochi. Somewhere along the journey, he felt a distinct tingling in his left arm and a sudden stiffness that took over his entire left side.

“It became difficult for me to even grasp a cup,” he said, recollecting the events of that day.

A few hours later, Sheen alighted at Thane station. “As soon as I stepped on the platform, I knew something was wrong with my left leg,” he said.

Puzzled by the inexplicable numbness on his left side, he told his wife that it was possibly a consequence of sleeping wrong.

“Earlier, I dismissed it as a normal pain owing to spending long hours in the train,” he explained.

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Once he reached home, he headed to the bathroom for a warm bath after a long and exhausting train journey. What happened next was chilling, literally.

“As I poured the warm water on my body, I realised that it felt absolutely cool on my left side while it was warm on the right side. That felt surreal to me,” Sheen recounted.

“That’s when I knew something was seriously wrong, and I told my wife that we had to get to a hospital.” He wasn’t wrong. The weird numbness was a sign of stroke.

Sheen was brought to Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, Mumbai where he met Dr Pavan Pai, a neurologist. By the time he got there, he said he lost complete control of his body.

“My world came crashing down when doctor Dr Pai, revealed that it was an ischemic stroke. I was shocked as I never thought about it ever,” he recounted.

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks or narrows down an artery that leads to the brain, decreasing blood flow to the vital organ.

It’s usually caused due to dysfunction of the blood vessel, plaque formation, inflammatory diseases, tear in the blood vessel or narrowing of the blood vessel due to non-inflammatory causes. Sometimes, debris from some other part of the body can also get lodged in the blood vessel, causing ischemic stroke.

Sheen’s story

The 45-year-old’s lifestyle is far from sedentary. For the army brat who once nurtured dreams of joining the Indian army, fitness is an integral part of life.

“Growing up in the 70s was different from now. Back then, we had a lot of open spaces to run around and play,” he recalled. “I would regularly exercise, do shadow jumping, and control my blood pressure and sugar levels promptly.  Our body is just like a temple and we need to take utmost care of it.”

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Naturally, for the inveterate fitness and sports enthusiast, a stroke diagnosis was hard to digest, but he wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

Despite the initial circumstances, talking to Dr Pai had a positive effect on him. “It made me feel confident about my recovery. ”

Resilence and recovery

Sheen knew recovery would be a long but inevitable process. Yet, there are mixed feelings in his mind when he looks back at the two days he spent in the intensive care unit of Wockhardt.

On one hand, he received top-notch care. “The doctor and nurses took good care of me.  I did not feel lonely even though I was away from my family members.”

But on the other, he couldn’t accept the thought of being confined to the bed even for a few days.

“The doctors said it was too risky for me to leave the bed to go toilet. So I was strapped with many tubes and bags,” Sheen recollected. “I was asked to relieve myself on the bed itself. The nurses would take care of it. It felt like a dehumanising experience. I just couldn’t accept it.”

Despite his disability, he pushed himself hard to get up and dawdle to the bathroom. “A well-meaning ward boy finally agreed let me go alone to the bathroom. But he insisted that I kept the door unlocked,” he shared.

It was this stubbornness and persistence that pushed Sheen closer and closer to complete recovery.

Eventually, under the guidance of Dr Imraan Khan, a physiotherapist at Wockhardt, Mira Road, Sheen got back on his two feet.

Stroke and timely treatment

There’s an overarching maxim of stroke treatment: The faster you get treatment, the better your recovery. Treatment should be given to the patient ideally with the 60-minute “Golden Hour” window after the first signs of stroke appear.

Getting the right medical help in the Golden Hour leads to excellent outcomes in all patients, despite their age or underlying conditions.

There’s a mnemonic to remember is BEFAST. B–  loss of Balance, E-Eyes or blurry vision, F- drooping on one side of the Face, A- weakness in Arms or legs, S- slurred Speech and T-Time to call the doctor. Each stands for a symptom.

Although Sheen initially lost out on precious hours when he was on the train, his alertness and timely decision to go to the hospital prevented more damage from happening.

It has barely been a year since the incident, but Sheen’s spirits are high. “How are you now?” I ask him. Pat comes the reply: “I am perfectly alright.”

He also let me in on something that gave him hope even in the bleakest hours of his life. “As I lay there in the hospital bed, I had visions and dreams. I dreamt of Barrackpore, the place I was born in,” he recollected fondly. Sheen treated it as a sign from his subconscious that things were going to be ok after all.

But health is not something he takes for granted even after beating stroke. Sheen’s passion for fitness has only grown, so has his zest for life.