Ticking timebomb caused stroke
"ON that day you could have taken off my arm in front of me and I wouldn't have even flinched. It was dead, no feeling whatsoever."
At age 38, fanatically fit Emerald carpenter Dan Englund was having a stroke.
It was an ordinary, mundane Monday on June 16 that threw the lives of the young family into turmoil.
Wesley Hospital doctors have since praised the fast diagnosis by Emerald Hospital locum Dr Jonathan St Clair, who had Dan on a Royal Flying Doctor plane to Brisbane and in their acute stroke unit within hours.
An MRI confirmed a stroke near where the spinal cord meets the brain, as well as a small cranial blood clot.
"When you walked in there it was like you had Jesus written on the back of your head," Dan, who plans to repay his excellent care by running from Emerald to Brisbane to fundraise for the stroke unit later this year, said.
"You don't even know these people but they're treating you like you're the most important person in the world."
When doctors told Dan they had found the stroke's cause - a 12mm hole in the atrium wall of his heart since birth - his builder's brain quickly translated the congenital defect's dimensions.
"It was the size of a copper pipe and I'd had this for the whole 38 years of my life."
Throughout the experience, Dan's spirit was irrepressible, matched by his determination to complete rehabilitation and return to his children Wyatt, 5, and Avalynne, 3, and to the helm of his business.
"I think I broke the record for the stroke ward at the Wesley," he said with a laugh.
"I was there for nine days and then at Canossa Hospital for the rehab.
"It's been a long road, but by day 11 I was able to walk up and down the halls, and in the three weeks of rehab I wasn't running but I was doing a really slow jog."
Dan had surgery on June 16 to insert an occluder device over the hole, and was home in Emerald the next day.
"You have got to have faith and I am a Christian and I think everything happens for a reason," he said.
"I had a good diet, no family history and never did anything to cause a stroke.
"I had so much contentment, I didn't drink, didn't smoke, ate well and exercised.
"It's the luck of the draw… but I live life every day knowing I'm not going to have another stroke.
This time last year, Tania and the children were in the Harvest Life Church evacuation centre on Emerald's south side after their home was flooded.
Dan was out and about, protecting the home and helping others wherever he could.
"It's been a really interesting year," he commented.
"Tania wrote a letter for our family newsletter, and she said if I had a copy of this on January 2 last year, I would have spent a lot less time worrying.
"We've made it through a flood, the town is back to normal, I've had a stroke and heart surgery, but everything's okay.
"This year it was surreal and great to have Christmas at home with no flooding and to be all together."