Hi I’m Emma Day and I’m a stroke survivor living in Neath. I had my stroke when I was 38 and living with my five year old son. As many people who’ve had a stroke know, my life was completely devastated. When I was discharged from hospital I still needed physical, mental and emotional support. With no follow up services, other than trips to a warfarin clinic, I felt totally alone.
Jason Haynes, the coordinator for Swansea Neath and Port Talbot, came to visit me a few weeks after I returned home. This service was totally invaluable to me. The support and care he showed me made me realise I was not alone and he encouraged me to believe I could recover from this traumatic experience.
Through Jason I learned of a Communication Support Group in Balgan, which was run by Coordinator Francesca Morgan. Francesca became another driving force during my recovery. She supported and pushed me to become more outgoing but was understanding that many situations could overwhelm me if I suddenly found myself surrounded by strangers.
Jason and Francesca encouraged me to train as a volunteer at the Stroke Association. Once I completed this I volunteered at local hospitals ‘Know your Blood Pressure’ stands. Bit by bit, what felt so un-natural to me became natural and I looked forward to the opportunity and meeting new people.
I volunteered and assisted Jason on several other occasions and, monumentally for me, I also attended the Flash Mob in Cardiff with over 100 people and managed to walk through the centre of Cardiff city.
Jason mentioned that Neath Port Talbot didn’t have a support group for stroke survivors so we put our heads together with Francesca and a stroke survivor at her Baglan communication group, Paul Thompson, and spent six months setting up our new Neath Port Talbot Stroke Group. We had our ‘launch’ meeting in June 2014 and over 50 guests attended, it was a huge success.
I now help organise and run, along-side other stroke survivors and their loved ones, an incredibly successful stroke group in Neath Port Talbot. If someone told me I’d be running the group and have a new life, enriched with genuine friendships I never would have believed it. Getting involved gave me a life after stroke with more meaning than my previous life.
Through starting NPTSG and regularly volunteering with the Stroke Association I was able to manage my fatigue successfully with more constructive things to do in my life. It helped me to overcome sleeping during the daytime, I even felt confident enough to return to work.
Words can’t convey how painfully awkward and hopeless I felt during the early days and months. My recovery has been an awakening. Post stroke I now have the gift of empathy. It’s surprising to me, as I’m sure it would be for other survivors, to realise that my stroke has given me more things than it took away. I just had to get up, turn up and get involved at every opportunity.