‘The first year was hell’

Amy MacKenzie
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 Lynn and Darell Nelson say life after his stroke was hard. They are encouraging others to make regular health checks like the one being offered at the YMCA at the Pictou County Wellness Centre today.

CARIBOU - When Darell Nelson woke up in the middle of the night five years ago he had no idea his brain was filling up with blood, neither did his wife Lynn.

“He was acting really weird. He was just kind of zoned out completely, so I called an ambulance,” Lynn said.

She said she was shocked “big time” when the doctors told her it was a stroke.

“Usually a stroke is when they have a blockage. His was the opposite,” she said. “He had massive bleeding in his brain,” she said. “When the vessel broke it was so traumatic and massive that they couldn’t repair anything. They could only just wait for the blood to go away in his brain.

“He wasn’t supposed to survive. He’s really lucky.”

February is Heart Month, an opportunity for the Heart and Stroke Foundation to raise awareness about the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid heart complications or a stroke.

The Nelsons want more people to become aware of these preventative measures because Darell’s stroke and recovery has been a terrifying and frustrating process for him and his family.

“He was in intensive care for five weeks and he was unconscious for about four of those weeks. When he woke up he couldn’t do anything. He had to learn everything from the beginning again,” Lynn said, Darell nodding in agreement beside her.

For years, Darell has been working to regain his memory and speech and he has come a long way since coming out of his post-stroke coma five years ago.

“The first year is hell, it really is. It’s frustrating because you can’t do anything to help. It’s something he has to do on his own,” Lynn said. “When you’re dealing with brain damage, the doctors can’t tell you anything for sure, it’s ‘our best guess is, we think it might be, this could possibly happen,’ but they can’t say they’re 100 per cent sure because they don’t know, so that’s really frustrating. But now, he has come a long, long way. It’s a lot easier now.”

Lynn said most of Darell’s memory has come back now, but he still struggles with it and when he’s tired, he has speech problems as well. But when you sit down with Darell and speak with him, you would have no idea he had a stroke unless he told you.

“He’s like the miracle boy because he didn’t recover normal. They told us when you measure recovery from stroke you count months and years, not days and weeks. But, he was leaps and bounds ahead,” Lynn said. “We were lucky that he came through the way he did because there could have been personality changes and it could go from being calm to being violent.”

Lynn said Darell’s stroke was caused by high blood pressure, something that could have been prevented.

“If he had had his blood pressure under control, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” she said, adding that a good diet and exercise are other ways people can prevent a stroke from happening to them.

Lynn said being part of the Pictou County Heart and Stroke Support Group has helped them get through the recovery process.

“You learn a lot of information through that. It’s good fellowship too, to be able to talk to people who have been through it,” she said. “We had one fellow last year and his partner had a stroke. She was just in the healing process and learning to cope with it and he was lost because he didn’t have anyone to help look after her and he didn’t know what to do. So he called me on five or six different evenings just to talk to someone who has been through it.”

Lynn said Darell’s recovery is good for other stroke survivors in the group because it gives them hope. “Darell’s a great poster boy because you really can’t tell that he had a stroke,” Lynn said, smiling.


The Pictou County Heart and Stroke Support Group is hosting “Your Heart Your Health, Grade Your Risk” event at the Pictou County YMCA today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Organizations: Heart and Stroke Foundation, YOUR HEALTH The Pictou County Heart and Stroke Support Group, Pictou County YMCA

Geographic location: Pictou County

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