Monday, April 22, 2024

McKay slows the pace after being at death’s door


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After suffering a life-threatening aneurysm (subdural haemotoma) earlier this year, the executive director of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) is on the job again, with a new lease on life and living her “new normal”.

Even though McKay is up and about and feeling much better, she confesses that she is still confused.

In an interview at her office on Thursday around midday, as she finishes off her soup which she eats, deliberately while sitting behind her laptop, McKay is open about her illness, even though she quickly admits there are some parts of the experience she just doesn’t remember. In fact, those gaps were filled in by family and friends.

With lunch out of the way, her bright-coloured lipstick reapplied and hair well-coiffed, McKay is now ready to reveal what she can about the journey that led her to death’s door and back early in January.

She recalls it was after her usual karaoke lime on Friday nights which she always looked forward to after a hard week of work, that an excruciating headache made her buckle in her bathroom.

She sought the comfort of her bed believing that some hours rest would make it right in the morning.

That didn’t happen.

As it turned out, McKay slept the entire day – that was the Saturday.

Knowing that something was not right, she knew she had to seek medical attention. She was taken to FMH but after some checks, was quickly given a letter and taken directly to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

“I don’t remember any of that. I don’t remember going to the QEH. I don’t remember any of that,” she says in her usual soft-spoken voice which seems even more measured and deliberate.

McKay’s condition was so serious that two days later on January 6, she had to have an operation.

There were reports swirling around by then that the BMA executive was fighting for her life.


Friends and family, including her son, who lives in Canada, gathered around her bedside, keeping vigil, praying for her recovery.

When McKay “came to”, she was confused and scared.

“You wake up in a hospital bed, you are confused, you are frightened as hell. I mean really frightened . . . . You can’t walk,” she says, her mind taking her back to those days though she now tries not to focus on them too much.

The mother of three says while she doesn’t recall the serious stuff, it is the strange things she remembers.

“I don’t remember conversations with my family; apparently I scared the hell out of my son. I don’t remember being in FMH or being taken to the QEH.

“Everything is still confusing. I am trying to release a bit and not think about it too much.

“I wonder about some things like who dressed me, who combed my hair, what was I like in ICU. I heard people came all day,” she says, letting out a laugh, especially as she recalls that she didn’t even own a nightie.

McKay had to have a second operation as there was fluid on the brain. As a result, a shunt had to be put in her head, she explained, as she leans in feeling the “hump in her head” now concealed by her hair which is now fully grown back.

What caused the aneurysm?

The busy BMA head had high blood pressure and the doctor had put her on medication, which she confesses she wasn’t taking as she should.

Things got a little hectic last Christmas and she was running around, but that was normal for her. In fact, she closed the office for two weeks, chiding employees to make sure and get some rest as it would be a full gallop when they returned after the holidays.

What McKay didn’t know was that she would be the one on bed rest.

She had a busy daily routine. She was getting up on mornings, not eating breakfast, running round, attending up to four meetings a day, and sometimes she wouldn’t eat until as late as 4 p.m.

That was then.

Today the woman who hardly ever reveals her age, says proudly: “I am looking after me first.”

It was a colleague who “broke it down” for her while she was in hospital, as he drew the analogy of a flight attendant explaining to passengers that they had to put on their oxygen masks first and then help others.

It all made sense to her.

McKay never realised how serious her condition was. It was only recently that it hit her.

Released from hospital on February 25, and delivered into the care of her fiancé and 24-hour care provided by his mother, bed rest was the main concern of her doctors.

She remained there until July 1 when she returned to her home where she gets full support from her neighbours and friends.

Even though McKay is up and about and feeling so much better, there are things that still boggle her mind.

“You are wondering why the things you used to do before you can’t do now. Even now that I am doing so much better and I am walking and everything, there are still things that boggle my mind. Things like making a bed, changing my sheets, plunging a toilet – I now have difficulty doing them.

“I am stronger now and I’m doing more. I still can’t believe how you change so much in that space of time,” she says, still in a measured tone.

She is also happy she was able to take in some Crop Over activities including Soca Royale, and Pan Pun De Sand.

McKay was back on the job on July 1.

“I need to look after me now and make sure my health is good,” she says, happy that the physiotherapy to teach her how to walk again was all over in June.

Now, she is taking it day by day.

McKay is at work about three to four days a week, for no more than four hours each.

She is happy to say she has more good days than bad.

She is also now trying to find her new norm, especially since this is not what she would have even imagined.

“I am getting stronger now. I can feel a difference.”


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