Now I live every day as if it's my last

JAMES Gow will never forget the day his daughter was born.

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James Gow now lives every day like it's his last
James Gow now lives every day like it's his last

Just hours after Emily's birth, the Maryhill man was scheduled to have life-saving brain surgery following a massive seizure the previous month.

The 40-year-old said he woke one night at home to agonising chest pains, and immediately phoned his partner Roslyn, who works as a senior staff nurse at a city hospital.

"I thought I was having a heart attack," said James.

"I looked in the mirror and I had dried blood round my mouth. I had no idea what was happening when I phoned Roslyn at her work.

"She and her colleague managed to figure out within a few minutes that I had a grand-mal seizure and the ambulance was called."

James was rushed to the Southern General, which specialises in brain-related conditions.

A specialist scan revealed he had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which had leaked and caused the seizure and was immediately scheduled in for a complicated procedure called embolisation.

The procedure, due to take place the day his daughter was born, involves injecting glue through the groin and into the brain to stop any further bleeding.

Due to James' lack of sleep prior to the birth, he was unable to have the surgery as doctors advised his body wouldn't cope and it was rescheduled for three months later.

Previously James ran his own businesses, installing kitchens, bathrooms and carrying out home improvements.

He returned to work following the seizure, but a month before his operation he was struck by another agonising trauma.

"I was on a job on August 1 in the West End. It was a small job, fitting a pane of glass.

"I wasn't exerting myself too much and I bent down to pick up the glass when I got a blinding sore head with flashing spots and colours.

"I knew it was to do with this thing I had been diagnosed with in April. I knew it was serious. I told the customer to phone an ambulance - luckily it wasn't an empty house or I'd still be lying there."

Paramedics raced him to the Southern General, where surgeons drilled a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure and drain fluid.

The site of the drain became infected, and James contracted meningitis.

He spent the next six weeks lying semi-conscious in a hospital bed and when he came out of the coma, he spent a further four weeks recuperating before facing the challenge of returning to normal life at home.

WHEN I came out of hospital I couldn't really do much at all," said James.

"I couldn't be left alone as well, I was at risk of another bleed.

"I had sort of written myself off and I got into a black hole - your life stops dead, your family life is turned upside down.

"I'm sure for others it would have been even more chaotic but I had a newborn baby, which gave me strength."

Since leaving the Southern General in August 2011, James has visited Sheffield for treatment which fired radiation at the site of his AVM.

One of the services most instrumental in aiding his recovery was Momentum Skills, an organisation set up to help people who have suffered brain trauma.

As reported in the Evening Times, the service, which has been running for over a decade, has helped hundreds of people return to normal life and prepare for going back to work.

It is now due to close at the end of the month after Glasgow City Council withdrew funding, leaving more than 25 service users without support and six staff members out of work.

Tomorrow will be the final day for service users such as James to speak with staff and get help and advice with their problems.

James' sister Susan started a petition to stop the closure of the service which so greatly helped her brother.

She said the service was a "lifeline" for so many people and wanted the facility to stay open, so staff could help others who had suffered from brain trauma, disease or injury.

TO date the petition has been signed by more than 500 people, including ex service-users and their families.

"When I first started going to Momentum, it was only for half days for the first while.

"It got me out of the house and going in and having a routine - you go from having two years of Sundays to having a week of doing things.

"It was brilliant and you meet people who have been through similar experiences to yourself.

"You are in a black hole, you think you are the only person this has happened to and you ask 'Why me?' all the time."

James said by going to Momentum, and taking part in projects such as the group's gardening club, it helped him to gain confidence and build his stamina.

Despite having to give up his home improvements business, he has returned to college and is studying an AutoCAD (computer-aided design) course.

He hopes to work on designing kitchens or find a similar job in the future.

"My experience and my daughter changed my outlook on life," said James.

"I live every day like it's my last."

hannah.rodger@eveningtimes.co.uK

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