Hi all! I’ve been interviewed again this week for the annual “Know Your Numbers” week 2021 (this week). I think you’ll remember the ‘Ultra Step Challenge’ i did during advent 2020 for the Blood Pressure UK charity…And they wanted to use the ‘I Newspaper’ to interview me from a slightly different angle for this years case study too! 😀
It’s a great article and it almost makes me sound inspirational, lol! 🤣 Please take a read!
‘It felt like my head was exploding’: Blind man describes how he lost his sight at 24 after brain haemorrhage
Steve Rebus’s optic nerve burst because his blood pressure was so high, causing him to suffer two brain haemorrhages
Steve walked 266 miles to raise money for Blood Pressure UK in December 2020.
Steve Rebus knew he had a family history of high blood pressure but never expected it would leave him blind following two brain haemorrhages in March 2000 when he was just 24 years old.
“I woke up and I literally couldn’t move,” Mr Rebus, now 46, told i. “Luckily my mobile was on the table next to me, and I could just move my arm across to call for help, otherwise the doctors said that would’ve been it.
“The ambulance rushed me straight to hospital and my blood pressure was 280/220mmHg [a normal reading is 120/80mmHg]. It was that night when my optic nerve burst because my blood pressure was so high and I had two brain haemorrhages.”
Richard Francis, Head of Research at the Stroke Association, said high blood pressure puts a strain on all blood vessels, including ones leading to the brain.
“In some cases the extra strain may cause a weakened blood vessel to burst inside the brain, causing bleeding into surrounding tissues. This is called a haemorrhagic stroke,” said Mr Francis.
Mr Rebus said it was “the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through” and added: “It was like a movie when you see a head explode, it was that kind of pressure.
“I put my head under the pillow and tried to squeeze it until the pain went away two or three days later.”
Steve and his wife Sarah on holiday in Roatán, a Caribbean island.
Steve and his wife Sarah on holiday in Roatán, a Caribbean island (Photo: Supplied)
More than one third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and another one third of adults are unaware that their blood pressure is high, according to CEO of Blood Pressure UK Phil Pyatt.
High blood pressure is almost entirely treatable but it kills thousands of people per year as it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Mr Rebus has his own blood pressure monitor and regularly checks himself as well as his friends and family: “I check everyone’s blood pressure now.
“You don’t realise how energetic and happy you can be when you’ve not got that worry of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure,” he said.
“It’s really nice not living on that danger line. It’s way less stressful.”
Before his brain haemorrhages, he played football, went to the gym and worked at a body shop repairing cars.
Doctors initially told him that his sight would eventually come back and he has noticed some improvements in his vision but at a regular check-up in July 2000 he was given the news that he was registered blind.
“As a gym-going footballer nothing really phased me until then,” he said. “I walked out the room and I just fell on the floor bawling my eyes out.”
The first few years after losing his sight were incredibly tough, Mr Rebus said. “I was suicidal non-stop with dark depression. They sent me to all kinds of therapy that didn’t work and I was getting drunk so I wouldn’t hear the voices in my head saying ‘no one wants you you’re rubbish’.
“I didn’t have the strength to live but I didn’t have the strength to kill myself either.
Steve ‘pushes the barriers’ of what he thinks a blind man can do by taking on physical challenges for charity.
In 2004, he met his now wife Sarah who “changed everything” at an annual sight-loss conference called Sight Village. “We always call it ‘love at first Sight Village’,” Mr Rebus said.
“Sarah worked for the Royal National Institute of Blind People. She came to our stall because she’d written an article in a magazine about our charity, Look UK, which I was volunteering for at the time.
“We were looking through the article together but then I said: ‘You do know I didn’t see any of that because I’m blind?’ She looked at my face to see whether I was joking or not, and that was it…she liked my sense of humour apparently.”
After 21 years, Mr Rebus said he has learned to live with being blind and said he likes to “push the barrier” of what a blind person is expected to do, completing a Tough Mudder challenge in October 2018 and a 266 mile charity walk during December 2020 for Blood Pressure UK.
In April 2022, he is taking on a trail marathon through the woods near his house in aid of the MS Society, in memory of his mother, who died of progressive multiple sclerosis the same year he was registered as blind.
What should your blood pressure be?
‘Know Your Numbers! Week’ is a campaign by Blood Pressure UK with the aim “reaching the millions of people who have high blood pressure but don’t know it, so they can get the treatment and support they need to bring it under control,” the charity’s CEO Phil Pyatt said.
Everyone is encouraged to routinely check their blood pressure either with a home monitor or a GP check up.
Anyone with normal blood pressure of 120/80mmHg is recommended to have a check up every five years.
Anyone above the age of 50 or anyone on the upper end of normal between 130/85 and 139/89 should get checked at least once a year.
Although there are some risk factors for high blood pressure such as old age, ethnic group, family history or underlying conditions like kidney disease, “mostly it’s due to lifestyle”, said Mr Pyatt.
Eating healthily, cutting down on salt intake, being active, not drinking too much alcohol and not smoking can keep your blood pressure down, he added.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) backs the Know Your Numbers! Week campaign. Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the BHF said: “There are up to 4.8 million adults in the UK who are undiagnosed with the high blood pressure, which is sometimes referred to as a silent killer because it often doesn’t present with any symptoms.
“If you are living with high blood pressure but don’t get diagnosed or treated then it can lead to other health issues such as heart attack or stroke.
“Anybody can be living with the condition, that’s why it’s important that you regularly get your blood pressure checked and know your numbers. It could end up saving your life.
The Stroke Association also supports the campaign. Richard Francis, Head of Research at the Stroke Association, said: “High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it is a contributing factor in around half of all strokes, making it the biggest single risk factor for stroke.
“Measuring your blood pressure is quick, simple and painless, and can be carried out at your doctor’s surgery or at some pharmacies.”