The trials and triumphs of caring for someone

lifeAssist pays tribute to the McArdle’s 50 years together, the past 16 of which they have shown extraordinary strength ...

By Vivienne McArdle

In 1998 my husband Tom left on his motorbike to pick up our son Peter. On the way home Tom pulled up at traffic lights, leaned forward. Fell sideways. Peter realised something was wrong. He grabbed Tom by scruff of the neck with one hand and bike handlebars with the other and lowered both to the ground. Peter knew that his dad was having a stroke.

By 11pm Tom was admitted to the Austin. At 3am the surgeon said a second event had occurred which was a catastrophic bleed and, even with surgery, he may not come through. Surgery lasted 10 hours but eventually the surgeon came out to tell us that he was in recovery in an induced  coma.

For the next 3 months I sat by Tom’s bed at the Austin, I knitted so many jumpers and cardigans then that I am still reluctant to look at a pattern or needles.

Eight weeks in rehab followed then Tom came home. He was as helpless as a baby, he couldn’t sit without assistance. His whole left side was deadened and anything left of centre did not exist for him. The weight of his body pulled him off balance and he couldn’t  understand why. He had difficulty swallowing and his speech was poor.

Life was really difficult for him. For 2 years we battled it out at home, Tom was now vocally and surprisingly physically abusive and aggressive, the exact opposite of the quiet, measured and fair man I had married 40 years before. The children - three sons and two daughters - found it very difficult to adjust to this new Dad. For two years we had no respite.

Almost 4 years exactly Tom was to suffer another bleed, this time at the base of his skull. This took away all he had gained and he became increasingly angry that he had survived. Many hours of counselling followed.

About this time I established a relationship with lifeAssist, as they insisted it was time Tommy received regular planned breaks. I am very grateful to them for their intervention. They have also been brilliant in covering special care days in our home to permit me to attend assemblies and conferences organised through my church.

This last year, as my health is showing cracks, lifeAssist has helped with a carer in the evening to help me get Tom into bed as his strength is failing rapidly and he is unable to assist in any way.  I have also enjoyed special day outings courtesy of lifeAssist.

Ultimately without the assistance  and support by various organisations we would not have been able to keep Tom at home, where he truly wants to be.

The 16 years we have survived stroke together have been a great blessing. I especially value the way all concerned have been real friends to us and are now well entrenched as extended family, caring for both Tom and I.

We can never show how thankful we are for the care and consideration we have been given.