Thursday, October 10, 2019

Stroke, Slump and Revival

Slump in a photographer's life is not an unusual phenomena. Many photographers face the slump, which pulls their inspiration down to the lowest ebb, but hope persists and either it puts them back to their passion or they make a new beginning. Not only the reasons for a slump vary,  but also the way such a situation is handled.

I had taken up photography as a hobby over four decades ago  and it turned out to be a rewarding passion. During last few years  I disliked holding my camera, with which I had made hundreds of images. Never before I had virtually left active photography. Just to understand this situation, I read a number of blogs and other related material and finally reached a conclusion that it's a fall out of my hemorrhagic stroke which I had suffered in the end of year 2014. But that was not only a stroke, it was more than that. One fine morning while driving alone within the city, I  suddenly fell unconscious and my car hit a round-about with a big bang. I remember having heard a thud. As I was not conscious shortly before the collision, my right foot must have pressed the accelerator with immense pressure which resulted in collision and a near fatal accident. I have a fainted memory as if someone on road asking me what happened and I replied perhaps I fell asleep. Thereafter, when I regained some consciousness, I felt I was in an ambulance and being taken somewhere. I heard two of my cousins talking to me as they were accompanying  me. But what followed thereafter and what eyewitnesses told me is very shocking and disturbing.

As a result of this collision, my seat belt was further tightened  and because of its diagonal pressure  my ribs and sternum were fractured, spleen, pancreas and liver were ruptured and my right eyeball was dislocated. Also, my right collarbone got twisted thus locking my right shoulder. The impact of collision was so much that my face collided against the steering of the car which had no airbag. Later I learnt that some well wisher had called the Police  who took me to the Government Multi-specialty hospital where they take all accident victims.Not satisfied with their initial treatment, my wife sought help from one of her friends and rushed me to the Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research where I remained admitted for a fortnight.

I cannot forget the kind gesture of a photo-journalist who happened to pass that way and recognized me. He immediately informed one of my senior colleagues who sent a message and a conveyance to my wife so that she reaches me fast.

After five days of treatment, I remember, the doctor had declared me out of danger, but my body below the waist was paralyzed, thus rendering me unable to sit or walk of my own. I had also developed some eye problem. Not only the right eyeball was dislocated, but also the vision became defective. Things kept in the hospital room appeared as if these were touching ceiling of the room. As internal bleeding stopped,  I was discharged from the hospital after a fortnight, but I was neither able to stand or sit of my own nor did I have proper vision. Much shocking is the fact that the doctors relied on CT scan conducted by the earlier hospital which did not reveal anything bad. Therefore, even after a fortnight of the ill-fated day, I was not diagnosed for a stroke. For them mine was a simple case of road accident which happened due to my sleep.
            While I was at home, my wife attended me with good care. It took me about a month to stand of my own. However, without telling anyone, I made a self commitment to stand and walk of my own within about two months. And I could achieve my goal.
Those around me had their own opinion  about my behaviour, physical appearance and way of talking. What was going on in my head and heart is not to be explained here. In those days I was a Mentor with Nikon School and used to conduct workshops within my native city and neighbouring states. I felt loss of strength in my arms. I thought it might be because  the right collarbone got twisted.
But life was never as was before. It became difficult to hold my Nikon D800 for a considerable time. It was a year later in 2015 that I went to the USA to receive the international honour of Proficiency in Photography (PPSA) bestowed upon me by the Photographic Society of America. My wife accompanied me to the USA,  but I left India only after the Neurologist permitted me to travel. My brother, who is settled in the USA,  arranged all our travel schedule thus making it a memorable trip. 
My right shoulder was locked which I thought might be due to the impact of the accident, but the doctor termed it due to the stroke. Since then, as I am observing,now my arms are not that strong thus making it very difficult for me to hold camera and long lens weighing about three kg. for a considerable time. It is unfortunate that the doctors in both the hospitals could not detect that accident was the result of a brain stroke.It was almost a month now and some friends were already accusing me of sleeping while driving which resulted in an accident. Among those who visited us in those days was one of our relations who is an experienced doctor. He was the one who emphatically said that I did not sleep while driving, but something else happened. On his advise my wife first took me to  an ophthalmologist so as to cure my visibility. After intensive diagnosis I was told that all appears to be normal with the eyes, therefore, this might be a neurological disorder. They referred me to the Neurology Department of the institute where the doctor asked for an immediate MRI. As I had walked to him, he said half of the battle has already been won, MRI will reveal exact situation. And the MRI showed a bleed in cerebral region. This diagnosis gave clue to the reason of accident. While driving alone I had suffered a haemmoregic stroke which resulted in the near fatal accident. And then started treatment for stroke, delayed by a month. When someone suffers a stroke, every second becomes precious to save a life.

That was about five years ago, but some neurological problems still draw my attention. I know, in this situation, recovery is slow and a natural process begins to cure. Unfortunately, there is not much awareness about brain strokes. I had have some questions about such problems and its not possible to visit the neurologist frequently. Therefore, I joined an international Stroke Survivors Group to understand cause  of my new  health problems and all that’s going on in my mind, my changing behavior  and even the taste buds.I discussed my various health issues thread bare with fellow members as well as care givers. It was there that I realised that after a stroke, in most cases, the body gets a  “factory reset”. There were those who, due to a stroke, were disowned by even their own family members and friends. There I got answers to my several questions and above all, I got a feeling that I am not the only victim. I had several others hailing from different parts of the world who encouraged each other and tried to redress common problems.
There were many who responded to my questions with immense care and with logic, perhaps because they had themselves either faced a similar situation or were care givers. Among the members  there was one who used to respond to various health issues with confidence. My curiosity led me to ask her whether she is a doctor or from nursing profession. She made a very surprising revelation saying, “ None of the two, I am a care giver to my husband who had suffered a stroke, but still under treatment”.  She is Mrs Marie Fe V. Maximo who turned out to be a home tutorial teacher from Philippines , but had once aspired to join the nursing profession.
A majority of  stroke survivors get their body like a factory reset. In many cases they are not understood properly even by their spouses or family members. Therefore, for them the Stroke Survivors Group is like a common platform where the members share their health issues and  do not feel loneliness.
One of my major worries was lack of interest in photography. I discussed even this issue with fellow members of this group of survivors. I tried some means to overcome the slump in my creative photography. Interestingly, I noticed that only a couple of stroke survivors who themselves are photographers responded to my issues on slump. I have always described photography as a stress buster. This may be true because in my opinion not many photographers might have suffered a stroke. Now after about five years of suffering a stroke, its clear to me that the cause of slump in photography is ill effects of stroke. The best remedy is to accept the present situation and fight it bravely. My efforts have started yielding encouraging results and now I see revival.

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