On November 25, I had a cerebrovascular accident. My left arm and left leg were numb. In my last column (in the January edition), I wrote that I was at AMC Hospital on the Neurology ward. After a week, my physiotherapist said: “There’s nothing we can do for you here. We are waiting for a bed in rehabilitation center Reade.”
An ambulance drove me to it the next morning. Marieke, who had also suffered a cerebrovascular accident, later told me: “You sat up straight on the stretcher and were chatting away.”
Thomas, my district nurse, told me: “In the old days, they would leave people with an infarction in bed, but they soon discovered that damaged and numb limbs need to be activated as soon as possible.” Well, we found out! In Reade, you get a work schedule every week with a full therapy program.
I was, as always, obviously gay. I can’t help myself. I am who I am. But I did not get any negative responses. I was in the smoking room with people from the Dutch Antilles, Suriname, and a Rumanian. We discussed our situations, and when I told them I was gay, they said: “Respect.”
The man from the Dutch Antilles and I became friends, as we had to do many of the same activities. His name was Eugène. Hetty, Tineke, and Jessica, among others, help me with walking in the gym. They were the ones constricting my left leg. While they held me, I would go forward step by step. Marieke and Eugène were already walking through the entire gym with a walking stick. Hetty said: “Soon, you’ll also be able to do this.” I thought: “Not in a million years.”
The infarction had and still is blocking my having a pee. They collected my urine with a catheter four times a day. Never before have so many women seen my penis. But one gets used to things, and you get over the shame. After a while, you do not respond anymore when a cheerful girl, following “incontinence nursing training,” sticks her head through the curtains and yells: “Mr Breed, is your penis clean?”
After I had written a letter of complaint, male nurse Paul sat next to me on the bed. He was from Tilburg. So Roy Donders quickly became our topic of conversation, as we were both fan. Paul’s brother once said: “I’d like to introduce you to a young man. He’s your type.” And so he was. They are living together for some years now.
We had a living room on the second floor of the care facility, where we ate. Male nurse Rob was a flamboyant gay man. He told me that in fact he was a ballet dancer. He was still working on his pirouette. But his “moonwalk” was a bit disappointing. Everyone cracked up, which is exactly what we needed. After diner, a small group of us got together and became somewhat rowdy. Especially Trees, a woman from the Beemster who had suffered two brain hemorrhages after a fall, was one of the people setting the pace. Trees and her husband keep sheep that soon will deliver little lambs. We will all drop by to see them.
One night, Marieke, Eppie, and I were sitting together, and I suggested to tell our stories. Marieke kicked-off: “I am always on time at work. When I didn’t come to work, my colleagues rang. They went to my house, but I didn’t open the door. They called the police, who arrived quickly and forced their way in. ‘Did you have a pleasant night, madam? One too many, perhaps?’”
The ambulance rushed her to a hospital. Eppie followed: “I exercise a lot and I was at the swimming pool. All of a sudden, I couldn’t move. I clung to the rail. People soon saw that I was in serious trouble and helped me out of the water. I went to the hospital in my swimming trunks on a stretcher.” Marieke’s and Eppie’s power of speech was severely impaired by their brain hemorrhages. They had speech therapy every week. Roaring with laughter, Marieke told us she could not pronounce the word “ontboezemingen” (unburdenings). Eventually, she did it. We all applauded her.
It’s hard to believe, but in the end, I could walk again. I want to thank Hetty and Tineke for this, and soon, I will bring them a bottle of wine. I also want to thank Jessica (physiotherapist), Liselotte (social worker), Florine (psychologist) and Nelleke (occupational therapist) with a bottle for their attention and support in this difficult and crazy period in my life. There are not words to express what my friend Leo and sisters Els and Carol did for me. I couldn’t have made it without them.