So 2020 got real interesting…

So it has been a long long time since I blogged and this time I have really good excuse for the absence… if you follow me on Instagram you know already… but in the last days of 2020 I managed to have a stroke. Needless to say this year has been about giving myself room to adjust and heal.

So this post will not have any pretty quilt pictures but will have the story of my stroke adventure and some helpful tips on strokes.

So here is the story…. on the 29th of December I was sitting at my sewing machine finishing up making some blocks, as you do. I started feeling strange…dizzy and light headed…. then I lost control of the leg that was controlling the sewing machine. I stood up and somehow managed to “walk/stumble” to the living room chair. The dizzy was not a normal dizzy – the world was not rocking but spinning and the right side of my body was not behaving itself at all.

Luckily my husband was working from home so I called out to him…I believe I said “honey I have a small problem”….understatement of the year! As soon as I explained what was happening I think we both knew what was going on… but neither of us verbalised it…. I think we were scared of freaking each other out. We jumped in the car and headed to the emergency room. The rest of that day was a blur. Lots of tests, lots of questions and lots of needles. I was luck enough to be able to tell the doctors exactually when the stroke started (10:18am) and was in the emergency room in plenty of time to get TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator), a miracle clot busting drug.

When I arrived at the hospital I could walk into the ER but within about 20 minutes of arriving I could not move my right side at all. It took the drugs a bit to kick in and when they did I started getting some movement back. A couple of nights in hospital, lots of tests and monitoring and I was released New Years Eve.

I was exceptionally lucky. We realised what was happening and despite Covid fears went straight to the hospital. I knew exactly when the symptoms started and was able to get a wonderful drug that helped so much. In the USA you have a 3 hour window to the get the TPA drug…. in the UK and Australia it is 4 hours. This drug was the difference between me walking out of the hospital with a functioning right side and being permanently paralysed on the right side.

2020 was incredible stressful for many of us, and 2021 has not been a picnic either. Please do not skip you check ups and if you have high blood pressure please monitor it. If think you are having a stroke, you have any weakness on one of side of your body do not “wait for it to go away”. Go to hospital. Even a mini stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) are a pre-curser to a full blown stroke. Listen to your body. Trust your instincts if you think something is wrong the chances are high that you are right.

So 2021 started for me with a limp. I did lots and lots of PT and I am getting back on my feet. Somethings have changed forever…I am a stroke survivor…my right side is weak and I have reduced sensation on that side… my brain gets easily overloaded – bright lights, lots of noise, lots of people all throw me. But I am alive… and there is a few more benefits. The lack of sensation on my right side has meant that I can bind quilt after quilt without any pain in my fingers or hand and without a thimble. This year I have bound over 30 quilts, sometimes finishing two or three a week. I have also started using all the good fabric I have been hoarding for years…. which means I have lots of pretty quilts to share in the coming weeks/months. Also this year I said “yes” to a lot of things I would not normally do which included having my photo taken by a fabulous neighbor.

So this is me now…. older, greyer and wiser… but still me.

Next post I will start sharing some old finishes from the last 12 months or so. I have so much to share so stay tuned….

55 thoughts on “So 2020 got real interesting…

  1. Thank-you for sharing your stroke story. We all need to be reminded to listen to our bodies and to seek help immediately if something isn’t right.
    So glad you are still able to sew — and have cut into the ‘good fabric’!! Life is too short to hoard.
    Best wishes as you continue to live with the side effects.

  2. Firstly, let me just say that you look FABULOUS! As a Grey myself, I’m constantly encouraging people to ditch the dye and show their grey gorgeousness.
    I’m so sorry that 2021 has been so hard. You sound as if you have come back from the stroke well, though, or as well as can be expected. Physical deficits can, as I’ve discovered, be hard to accept and learn to live with, but one that actually *enables* quilt binding has to be a minor miracle. I was diagnosed with T2 diabetes in May, which has been a bit life-changing. Who knew there was life after chocolate…? I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in forthcoming posts – I’m not on IG so I haven’t seen anything of your recent output at all. It’s going to be a treat!
    I hope that one day you’ll both be able to come back to Queensland for a visit, and that when you do, you’ll let us know. The Husband still talks about the time we came to see you on Hammo, and how much fun it was. Say hello to Mr Wombat for us, and thank him for taking good care of you when you needed support.. The world needs its Wombats… xxxx

  3. You are beautiful.
    As it happens, I had been wondering where you were… glad you and your husband knew what to do and that you are still here with us! I look forward to seeing all your lovely creations. ❤

  4. Good for you! You listened & you acted! Though it may be a struggle you kept moving forward and have been making progress. Thanks for sharing your story & can’t wait to see your projects.

  5. I wondered where you went. I am glad you told your story. I am a nurse, it is good to hear a positive story when there are so many sad stories since covid. I will keep you in my thoughts n prayers. I look forward to more of your story. Your USA friend, Mary

  6. Oh yikes! SO glad that you got proper medical help immediately and are doing so well. And have missed your blog! I always am pleased and cheered by your quilting. I hope your holidays are fun and that the coming year is better—for everyone, actually.

  7. So glad you got there in time to get TPA. Just to let everyone know Strokes don’t necessarily start with weakness on either side of your body but can start just with slurred speech, dropping of an eye or the side of your mouth. Always seek treatment for these symptoms. May be something less frightening like Bells Palsy (which is also frightening to the person experiencing) but isn’t something to ignore. Have an awesome holiday season.

  8. Oh Cath, what a year! And Kate said it best…you look gorgeous, and well done with the prompt trip to hospital for help, and with the hard work of recovery. Glad you are here, even if making lots of lemonade : ) Looking forward to those quilts, big hugs.

  9. I am so thankful you were able to act quickly, knowing what your symptoms might be, and that you were able to get the drug that you needed. I’m very thankful you are healing and still able to sew and enjoy those things. So good to see beautiful you in that photo! Looking forward to seeing all those lovely quilts you’ve been binding, too!

  10. Oh my, you’ve had a really hard time. You are the second person in the last two days that I’ve known about that had a stroke. Fortunately, both of you are weaker, but working on recovery. I’m so glad you shared a new photo with us of what you look like now. I look exactly like you!!! I was brown headed and now I’m gray headed. I used to wear pastel colors all the time, but yesterday I told my husband I think I need to start wearing some darker colors to counteract all this white skin and white hair. Maybe this was just my excuse to buy some new shirts—-what do you think? Hmmmm….. That’s fantastic that you are still enjoying your quilting hobby and are getting all those quilts bound. You can give them away to someone who’ll enjoy them and then make some more using up all that beautiful fabric that you’ve been saving for just the right quilt.

    I wish you well during your continued recovery–keep getting stronger, please—more exercises.

  11. hi! oh, my!! oh, dear, i am so sorry this happened to you. very glad you quickly got help… thank you for sharing! i wish you the best!! your work is lovely & you are so generous! stay well, hugs 🙂

  12. Hi Cath, I am glad to hear that they were able to give you the TPA drug. Strokes are scary! You look beautiful.

    My wonderful husband had a stroke in January of 2019. He is bedbound. I never leave his side. I pray a lot and we both keep the faith. He did have therapy in 2019. He was in the hospital for 3 1/2 months, including 1 month of rehab. Then a bit of therapy later in the year but insurance issues and a disagreement with rehab got complicated and they never finished the rest of his therapy. Then COVID in 2020 and no therapy. Some this year but it’s been hard to even get anyone to come out. We are working on that now.

    You are a strong woman, a survivor. I wish you all the best and many blessings.

  13. God Bless You! So glad you knew what was happening and acted quickly. Love your gray hair, so is mine! Keep doing what makes you happy and use up that good fabric!

  14. Hello! So sorry to hear of your stroke but so glad you are back in the blogosphere! Thanks for sharing your recovery story and giving us sound medical advice. I am not on IG (trying to limit screen time) so I thought perhaps you were just tired of blogging…and I can’t wait to see what you’ve made during your ongoing return to good health! I love your choice of fabric, colors, and patterns, and the unique way you blend all three. So happy you will be continuing to post! Jenny

  15. Bless you! Thank you for your story and I’m so glad you could get the TPA and that your husband was there. The Universe must have plans for you to make a lot more quilts! What a lovely picture of you in that pretty polka dot dress with your beautiful smile and hair.

    I had a TIA in May of 2020 – this is helpful information. I wouldn’t go to the ER that first time until night time when my friend drove me to the ferry and I took a night boat and the hospital taxi met me. I may not be so lucky the 2nd time. I live alone. I will call the EMTs next time and let them fly me off the island..

    Now we get to look forward to seeing all of your beautiful finishes (and starts!)

  16. Thank you for the details about your stroke and current state. I’m 67 and worry about this for myself since I have high BP (and am on meds which help a lot).
    I’m eager to see your work for the past year – I’ve always been a fan of yours, and I’m glad to know you’re still in the quilting game. All my best!

  17. I am so happy to know that you hav recovered. What a nightmare you have been through. I have missed you bright, lovely blocks and quilts. Loe, Love, Love all of those triangles. I don’t think that I would have re-started my quilting with that block. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  18. Other ladies said it all – so glad to hear from you again, and that you got to hospital fast, and that you are recovering nicely. Your story made me think – what are we all saving those fab fabrics for anyway? Once something like this happens one realizes – we should use it and not keep it for some special project – because we may as well just be taken away..and our family might be left with our stash having no idea what to do with it. We all know lists of excuses for getting more fabrics, but seriously – for how long we should keep them?? I am turning 66 soon and your story is inspiring me to start using more of beautiful fabrics that I have and make my quilts awesome right now! Get better and better and have a lovely holidays – warm regards from Serbia!

  19. So happy to read of your recovery. In 1971 my Mum had a stroke at 36 years of age – back then they didn’t know as much about strokes as they do now – she was left with a paralyzed right hand, I read your description and that is exactly as my Mum described it all those years ago.
    Lovely to see you blogging again – looking forward to seeing your latest finishes 🙂 Take care.

    • I am so lucky that I was able use the new advances in stroke medication…but I was surprised when researching stroke how much is not known about it and how post stroke care is so unbalanced and under researched…

  20. wow you certainly had a curve ball! so glad that you are recovering well…you look fantastic! as a fellow grey head, it suits you….take care and keep those quilts coming!

    • Hi Julie…grey is definite the new color of 2020/2021 and I am kind of embracing it. I actually have had purple hair most of this year and I am thinking that it may be my néw default color. It is fun watching all the weird looks I get with purple hair.

  21. Hi Cath, thanks for sharing your journey with us. I also had two strokes in Sept 2020…right after sex, so imagine me having to tell various doctors…lol. I did not go to the hospital as I don,t drive and we can’t afford an ambulance ride. Also, our small local hospital has converted half of the ER waiting room space into a Covid ward and I did not want to go there. I am still dealing with body weakness, but finally have my bp under control after many different combos of bp meds. My resting pulse was always over 100 bpm so that had to be addressed with medication too. I am quilting again and have just finished working on Christmas present sewing for the extended family. I am also back to working on my epp projects in the evening…yay!
    Stay strong & quilty huggs

    • Strokes really are the worst…and I am sorry you had two. Argh that is rough. I must admit I was so apprehensive about sex after the stroke…I was scared it was going to trigger another one….but so far so good. 🤣

      • I have heard quite a few times since my stroke the term “time is brain” and it is so true. The sooner you get help the more of your brain you get to keep. Thanks for spreading the information about strokes…it is important.

  22. So sorry to hear of your stroke. What a shock it must have been for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging others to be aware of their health. As much as you want to get back to normal, perhaps it will be a lot slower than you think. I do hope you will make a full recovery and quilting will continue. What a lovely photo too.

    • Thanks Marcia. I am taking it slower that for sure but not by choice…my body will only let me go one speed most of the time. I am looking forward to being able to go a little faster next year.

  23. So glad to hear a positive message about your experience. Happy you are doing so well. It is a reminder to us all to be mindful of our own bodies and it’s normal/not normal sensations.
    It is also a reminder to use the gorgeous fabrics. Use the good china. Enjoy our lives while we can. Smile more and be ever thankful.

  24. I am so glad you were able to get the treatment you needed! So nice to see you looking at the positive things while still acknowledgeing the hard parts. And the picture is awesome – xo

  25. In April 2020 I had a Stroke. Then I fell and broke a hip. Then a back operation. That’s all, I’m done. Quilting is on the back burner now I may start again. Later.

  26. My brother had a stroke Christmas Day of 2019. He was 54. Like you, he was lucky not to be Home Alone and the ambos were there in 6 minutes. Still, he nearly died and it’s been a long road back.
    So glad that you’re coming good. Your binding paragraph made me laugh! There’s always a silver lining, isn’t there?

  27. Goodness gracious you are beautiful inside and out! I had realised you were absent but had not done my own due diligence to find out why. My own apologies for that. But also my sincerest appreciation for the gravity of your situation and triumph through it. Thank you for sharing your experience as I’m sure it will help others! Sparkle love to you! Mwah.

    • Thanks Molli…it has been a weird time and I was not sure how much to share but I think it is important information to know…particularly as we all age gracefully….except of course for Tom Brady and Paul Rudd who both seem to have done a deal to stay young.

    • Thanks Bill. I have thought of you a few times this year…especially when I found out that strokes and heart attacks were similar. Hope you and Linda are doing well and enjoying married life.

  28. Hey, Cath this is Sarah (@heirloominthemaking on IG) and I did not know about your stroke until today. Wow. First that’s a fantastic photo of you; your neighbor surely is a fabulous artist making you literally GLOW in the photo! I embraced my all-grey, nearly white hair several years ago and am much happier for it. You still have a young face–and it is evenly smiling 🙂 Always a good thing for a stroke survivor!

    Many women in my family have suffered strokes so I am intimately familiar with and in fear of this experience. I’m in the USA and have no health care, haven’t been able to afford any since before the new millenium. Yeah, it was the 1990s last time I had health care here, so having a stroke is purely terrifying given I have no access to any drugs, medical care or even professional evaluation of what it is that has happened to me. If I stroke out, living alone where I do, I’ll probably just die right there on the floor.

    Sad that so many Americans share this state of living (if you can call it living) and yet, I still feel so very blessed. I am fairly healthy for a 61 year old who is out of shape and a former smoker. Since I have no health care I do take care of my choices, whenever I can. I also take extra effort to consciously appreciate my blessings, as you seem to have done in this post, so good on you! And congratulations for surviving this and finding the silver lining to sew up a storm of binding etc. with no thimble or pain! Wow.

    I have followed your blog for several years, but on an intermittent basis. I don’t really read blogs “faithfully” and don’t even follow all the people I “follow” on IG or Facebook! I try to use the online tools for myself, not for me to be used by them. I’m so glad I connected with you, even if it was a one-sided (me) and fairly silent connection. You have definitely inspired me with so many of your blog posts and IG posts. You have a light inside you. I think that’s what your neighbor captured and why she got your photo to just glow. Thank you for sharing your light. May you keep shining in 2022!


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