Stroke victim’s ‘steely resolve’ inspires 50-year-old husband to make a career change
As his wife Jane began the painstaking process of recovering from a stroke, Alex found reason to be cheerful in her determination to beat the odds.
“When I first met Jane, that’s what I recognised in her, that will, that determination, that steely resolve,” he said.
“That really has come out through this journey — and it’s like going back 18 years to when we first met and seeing that same person.”
Three months ago, doctors at the Canberra Hospital were not sure if Jane was going to wake up.
After suffering a stroke at 47, she was left in the intensive care unit in an induced coma, relying on machines to keep her alive.
Returning to the world: ‘I could still see her in there’
When she did wake up, more than two weeks after the stroke, the first thing she saw was Alex.
“My first memory is waking up in ICU after a couple of weeks apparently — having had a good sleep — and waking up and seeing Alex sitting next to me,” she said.
“It was very scary because I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get my legs to move or get my hands to move.”
While Jane lay unconscious, husband Alex, who requested the ABC refer to the pair by their first names, spent hours speaking to his wife.
“Initially it’s very hard to speak with somebody laying there unconscious, with tubes going in and out of them, with no response from them,” he said.
“People in ICU, the nurses, were telling me keep talking to her and you do, you start to rabbit on with silly stories.”
He said doctors gave him “no false hope” that she would wake up, or that if she did, she would ever walk or talk again.
But she did open her eyes occasionally.
“I could still see her in there,” he said.
“What I did say to the consultant was ‘the day I can’t see her in there, I’ll give it a day and then I’ll tell you’.”
Jane’s healthcare was ‘inspiring’
Alex was so inspired by the doctors, nurses and other staff during Jane’s time in the ICU that he decided to train to become a nurse.
After weeks in a coma, Jane is regaining her strength through rehabilitation. (ABC News: Elise Scott)
While Jane said she was daunted by Alex’s plan to retrain as a nurse, he claimed watching her make strides every day had given him the confidence to take on his own challenge.
He called the healthcare professionals “warriors of compassion”.
“They were compassionate, they were caring, they took their time, they explained things,” he said.
“They were there for you all of the time — I had nurses who were really busy saying, ‘do you want a coffee?’
“It’s a privilege what they do, they recognise that and to me that’s just inspirational.”
In a small gesture of gratitude to the team looking after his wife, Alex became the man with bags of lollies.
“It cost me a small fortune,” he said.
“But if I could have backed a truck of lollies into ICU I would have.”
Beating the odds
Three months since the stroke, Jane is walking assisted with a frame and spends four days a week undergoing rehabilitation at the new University of Canberra Hospital.
Bushwalking at her favourite spots around Canberra was just one of the activities Jane missed during recovery. (Supplied)
Dr Simon Robertson, deputy director of ICU at the hospital, said he was “thrilled” by how far Jane had come.
This is a better outcome than I had hoped for and expected,” he said.
Jane said she owed it all to the teams of people who cared for her.
“From when the ambos delivered me through to now, there’s just been an enormous amount of support — even the ladies who bring dinner are nice,” she said.
“They’ve pushed when it’s needed and recognised the fatigue and tiredness and frustration and the tears and the desperate need to sleep.”
There are days when it can be difficult, but Jane is determined to get to the point where she can walk unaided, and hopes to return to her favourite Canberra walking trails.
“It’s frustrating trying to do things you’ve been doing since you can remember,” she said.
“Writing was like a class of hieroglyphics for anyone reading it in the beginning, but with practice I’m getting better.
“I miss the coordination, running and just even lifting up one of my cats.
“I’d like to be able to go for a walk in the scrub again, I’d like go out to Tidbinbilla, go out to Gibraltar Falls. I’d take my camera and take a few photos.”