In this installment of Our Stories, Mrs. Dezrine Smith Barclay talks to us about overcoming a near-fatal stroke. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!

Meet Mrs. Dezrine Smith Barclay – A Hemorrhagic stroke survivor

Mrs. Smith Barclay Smiles through the Storm. Photo Retrieved from the Church Camera Photos.

Average daily activities are oftentimes inhibited by accidents, crime, violence, natural disasters, and most common of all, illnesses. Many succumb to different ailments while others rarely overcome them. Mrs. Dezrine Smith Barclay is more than an overcomer as she has beaten a hemorrhagic stroke which resulted from an aneurysm. A hemorrhagic stroke is when blood from an artery starts to bleed into the brain. This happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain. Hypertension is one of the leading causes of hemorrhagic strokes and is more common in women than in men.

You have been living with Hypertension since 2001. When was the first traumatic incident?

One day I felt extremely woozy while I was in Courts Jamaica Limited in Linstead and suddenly I collapsed on one of the beds then was rushed to the Linstead Hospital and was later admitted to the Spanish Town Hospital for three weeks. My head was always feeling heavier than usual and it took a toll on my neck as well where it would always stiffen. That’s when I learnt I had high blood pressure and it was extremely elevated.

Time went by, you acquired your Visa and decided to spend time with friends on your third visit to the States, describe your visit before you fell ill.

Well, you know my love; it was a hearty one, being reunited with familiar faces and meeting new ones. I would absolutely love to tell you more but my short term memory has lapsed due to the illness.

Please describe how you fell ill again in 2019.

To be honest with you my dear, my memory has not returned fully, but based off what I was told by my friends, I was sitting down and when asked what I was doing, I said ‘I’m putting my clothes on’ when I was just sitting down. What a hallucination?! When they asked me where I was, I replied by saying ‘I’m at the hospital’ when I was still sitting at the table. What a thing! They called the paramedic immediately and I was rushed to the Palm Bay Hospital but due to the critical nature of my illness, I was rushed to the Holmes Regional Medical Centre ICU and spent two full months. Luckily, the paramedic team brought me to the ICU early enough for them to have determined from the CT Scan that I had a blood vessel rapidly bleeding into my brain damaging the memory, motor and speech sections of my brain.

Oh my! What or who at that point was your major support element?

First of all, God was there keeping me all along also three of my children were there initially but this one daughter and the youngest of them all; that was the one who stayed with me the entire time. This one prayed with me, talked to me in my state of unconsciousness, played my favorite Gospel music, bathed me, and changed my linens. God alone knows why He blessed me with such amazing children.

How blessed to have such care and love in a time of need! When you heard that you may never walk, talk, nor eat again for another 4-6 months, what were your thoughts?

It was after I gained consciousness, being asleep for four whole weeks; my daughter told me what had happened and what the doctors said. What I do remember clearly was her voice in my ear saying

‘Mommy, tell your brain to function again, tell those feet to move again, open your mouth and give God praise. Doctors may treat but only God can heal.’

All of my right side was crippled. I spent my time thinking, trying to motivate myself to get up and move.

That must have been difficult! But your condition improved. When doctors, nurses, CNAs saw your improvement what were their reactions?

On March 5th, I spoke the first words in a long while, my first words were ‘Thank You’ when a nurse came in and said she would give me my medication. The nurse was so excited she ran out of the room and squealed happily down the hall ’23’s (Room number) talking everyone!’

Nurses rushed into the room to hear me, but on the video my daughter showed me I didn’t say anything else but smile.

On the 20th of March, I took my very first step with physical therapy, nurses swarmed around and applauded as they couldn’t believe it was the lady who laid in a semi-coma for several weeks.

On March 25th, I was served my first pureed meal which consisted grits, eggs, cream of wheat and some tea. It was the first ‘baby food’ so to speak I was so happy to see because I had a feeding tube hitched inside my stomach for weeks on weeks because I couldn’t speak much less eat.

How are you coping with this illness now as opposed to when you were first diagnosed?

Chile, at first, I was constantly thinking about it and worried about how I would be able to support my children not being able to function holistically without my blood pressure elevating. I sparingly took the medications I was given because I hated the idea of having to live on pills daily. It used to fluctuate uncontrollably because I was not adjusting properly to this diagnosis. Now is when I start to routinely take my medications and take life one day at a time. I no longer worry unnecessarily about what I don’t have control over especially since I was bowled over the last time I was hospitalized.

Mrs Barclay is all smiles during her journey of coping with Hypertension. Picture Retrieved from The Family Photo Album.

Now let’s talk about lessons learnt. What have you been using to treat this illness?

Honestly, I’ve been strictly placed on pills prescribed by doctors including Enalapril and many others. My husband has played an instrumental role where he makes herbal remedies such as Garlic mixtures famous for thinning various blood clots in the brain and other areas of the body.

And what have you learnt about this illness and life with this illness?

Darling, what I’ve learnt first and foremost is that Hypertension is a silent killer, creeps up on a person like a thief in the night and it attacks the brain, the CPU of the body. It detects worry and feeds off it, causing the pressure of the blood flow to increase so much so that the arteries and vessels are liable to explode. I have also learnt that whatever we feed the body with helps significantly in reducing the negative effects that accompany these illnesses. These 18 years have been tests for me whereas I struggled to keep the blood pressure at an average rate so that I may be able to function optimally, there have been highs and lows in my life thus far with it however given the two grave circumstances which I underwent I believe that life with hypertension will be smoother because now, I am on my P’s and Q’s where it comes to monitoring the blood pressure, maintaining a balanced diet and taking the relevant medications.

Lesson well learnt! What advice do you give to family members who have loved ones (relatives and friends) in critical conditions and are becoming hopeless?

Pray ceaselessly. There’s nothing impossible for God. Extend your faith. Hold on to His unchanging hand. He has done it for me and He will do it for you. I am a living, breathing miracle. I leave you with this song ‘There’s not one Broken Vessel’. In addition, try as best as possible to remove all the stressful elements that may cause worry and the blood pressure to elevate.

Thank you Mrs. Smith Barclay for sharing such an inspiring story with us!