Man, 59, Kayaking Around Scotland Suffers Medical Emergency

Nick Ray was cruising along in his kayak, about halfway through a one-year paddle around Scotland.

Then something went terribly wrong.

Ray reported a stroke-like incident that hospitalized him on the morning of March 9. Days later, the prognosis had changed to a possible palsy. Still, work remains ahead of the paddler if he seeks to get back in the boat.

He described the early part of the episode on Twitter. “To say I’m gutted is an understatement,” he wrote.

It’d be hard to knock Ray for feeling discouraged. He started his Scottish circumnavigation on Aug. 28, 2022. The retirement-age explorer sought to “explore the incredible coastline of Scotland, following my heart, my inquisitiveness, and my dreams,” he wrote at the time.

If all went according to plan, his 12-month journey would have come to an end on his 60th birthday this August.

Now, that outcome’s been thrown into serious jeopardy. Though he wasn’t sharing live tracking of his trip, he’d made it to Kilt Rock as of late February — paddling from his embarkation point of Tobermory.

Ray was still under examination as of this afternoon, alternately tweeting his experiences in the hospital and memories from his trip. Notably, he’d been suffering from gout in the week leading up to his hospitalization. He reported he’d paused his trip due to the illness on March 8, the day before the episode.

A serious setback

By March 10, he tweeted the circumstances surrounding his episode had “been deemed complicated.” Yesterday, he stated he’d still be hospitalized for a few days. He would require speech and language therapy, and his eyesight was affected, he wrote.

But a glimmer of hope awaited. Strokes often result from sudden arterial blockages, and this afternoon, scans showed that his veins and arteries were healthy. The tests resulted in an updated, and less severe, prognosis.

“It’s hard not to whoop gleefully just yet but I will. It’s highly unlikely this episode was the result of a stroke & is probably a palsy,” he tweeted. “I’m SO relieved!”

Several palsies exist along a spectrum of seriousness. According to the Mayo Clinic, Bell’s palsy causes “sudden weakness” in muscles on one side of the face. More severe palsies include cerebral palsy, which often appears at a very young age, and progressive supranuclear palsy, which “results from deterioration of cells in areas of your brain that control body movement, coordination, thinking and other important functions.”

Time will tell when and if Ray gets back in the boat to finish his ambitious quest.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.