Former sports coach and teaching assistant Michael Pursey, from Wales, expected to be in a wheelchair forever after having a stroke in 2019 at the age of 24. Four years on, Michael can walk, talk, and drive again.
I returned home after six months in hospital. I felt lonely and depressed, without any belief that I could recover. When I got home, I cried my eyes out, thinking I’d be in a wheelchair forever.
My physiotherapist recommended that I attend a stroke group in Neath Port Talbot on World Stroke Day in 2019. The coordinators I met there then came to see me at home, talked to me about what I could access, supported me to do so and helped me to re-evaluate my goals. Driving, walking, it may not happen straight away but if I gave up at the first hurdle, then that was it. Every day I walked along my hallway, supported by the wall and a banister, filming myself at least once a week to visualise progression.
If you work hard, there’s no limit to your improvement. I needed that mentality, that push out of procrastination.
There’s life after stroke! Four years on, I can walk, talk, I’ve just passed my driving assessment and I’m helping other stroke survivors in their recovery.
Caroline and Matt Cooke
The lives of Caroline and Matt Cooke from Northern Ireland were turned upside down when Matt had a sudden stroke in August 2020.
At only 40 years old, Matt’s life had changed forever, his stroke left him with cognitive problems and left sided paralysis. He was in hospital for nearly a year and Caroline became his carer. She says, “the reality is everything has changed in my life as well as Matt’s life. A stroke has a huge impact on the person who has it but also on the family. We had shared roles but now everything falls on me and that is difficult.”
“When Matt had his stroke, I didn’t know anything about it. I was scared and worried about my husband, so I looked online and found the Stroke Association website. I called the Stroke Helpline, and they referred me to their local support service. It was really good and helped me with trying to deal with what was happening, especially as I had limited visits due to Covid. That emotional support for not only stroke survivors but carers as well is so important to helping to rebuild a life after stroke.”
“At the start, Matt couldn’t remember the days of the week, tell the time or even do one plus one. He was in a wheelchair when he came out of hospital, but he has regained movement in his left leg, so he’s come a long way. The journey hasn’t been easy but positivity, belief and having hope is so important - everyone’s life after a stroke is different”.
Dave and Jackie Parkyn
Carpenter Dave Parkyn from Cornwall had a severe stroke in August 2020, aged just 28. This devastated his life, his mother’s life, and the lives of those closest to them. Dave is now blind in his right eye, partially sighted in his left and physically disabled.
For the first two years after his stroke, his family struggled with the huge emotional toll. Now, thanks to the emotional support received from Life After Stroke services, they have started to come to terms with what has happened.
Jackie (Dave’s Mum) told us “It has devastated Dave’s dreams. He has lost his income, his self-confidence, pride and ambition. He planned a future with a wife and family, was buying his own house, had just started his own business and absolutely everything changed.
“Dave and I were hesitant when we were offered a referral to the Stroke Association’s Cornwall Emotional Support Service, but being able to talk openly about our feelings has made a real difference.”
Dave said: “I didn’t think it would help and I was reluctant to go through with it but I’m very pleased that I did. I spoke to them about everything, my feelings of humiliation and worthlessness, my lack of confidence and my embarrassment at how I now felt I looked. It helped me think about how to let out my anger and frustration, which is a huge part of the healing process. It was just nice to be able to talk to someone and share my feelings and not feel judged.
Jackie said: “They enabled me to think and reflect and simply talk openly and honestly, never once telling me what or how to think or feel but helping me explore my feelings and come to some sort of acceptance of them. Dave will never fully be able to do the job he loved so much, but he’s recently returned to carpentry work.
“He is now beginning to accept some of what has happened and is trying to re-build a career and a life, albeit different to the one he planned.”
Mother, Julie Lomax had an ischaemic stroke in May of this year. For reasons unknown to us, Julie wasn’t referred to the community stroke team and felt left upstream without a paddle post-stroke.
“On the day of my stroke, I felt some tingling around my lips and my left cheek. It got worse down my left side the next morning and I lost all coordination. After 3 days under observation in my local hospital I was blue-lighted to Oldham to have an endarterectomy. When I first came out of the surgery, I felt great, and everything was going well. I was given my medication but then simply told to go home”.
“It was very odd getting home without any knowledge of what would happen next. I was sure this wasn’t a normal process. I felt left upstream without a paddle.”
The Bury Stroke Recovery Service received a referral for Julie, direct from Fairfield Hospital. For reasons unknown to us, Julie wasn’t referred to the community stroke team.
“Shortly after contact with our coordinator Jo I had appointments booked with coordinators, district nurses and physiotherapists.”
“Our coordinator, Jo did a home visit and told us to call anytime. She scooped me up and has been my safety net ever since. It’s as if her world revolves around my family. I had a bee’s nest at the front of my house and couldn’t get out. My daughter contacted Jo, who put me in touch with a local pest control and we got it sorted. It seems such a trivial issue, but not to Jo. She always goes the extra mile.”
Problems with memory and cognition are very common after a stroke, recovery can continue for months or even years. Life after stroke services help stroke survivors to increase confidence in decision making and execution of tasks.
“Without her emotional support, personability and guidance, I wouldn’t have the bright post-stroke outlook that I have today. I’ve got a life to keep living!”
Marwar Uddin, 41, from Tower Hamlets, London, had a haemorrhagic stroke aged just 40 in August 2022. A Dad of three, his stroke not only changed his physical abilities but his role in family life. He now receives life after stroke support and regular care support.
Marwar said: “Stroke is one of the worst things because of the long-term impact it has on you as a person. I need help to go to the toilet. I can’t even dress myself. There is so much I can’t do anymore. My voice is different now, like I’m a different person. I cry myself to sleep most days. It’s difficult for me.
“My youngest daughter, she’s only five, came to the hospital to see me after about six weeks. When she walked in the room, she saw me and said, ‘That’s not my dad.’ This is my daughter who would come running into my arms when I picked her up from school and give me kisses. That was one of my most difficult days.
“After my stroke, I was contacted by several organisations. The Stroke Association was there right from the beginning and was with me throughout my whole journey. My Stroke Support Coordinator calls me regularly to see how I’m doing. They have sent me so much information, pointed me in the right direction for obtaining a disability lanyard and helped me to get my blue badge.
“I am also set to start a phased return to work later this year.
“Without life after stroke services, my life would be massively different. I have had so much encouragement from the Stroke Association and the community stroke teams. If I didn’t have any of this support, I think I would still be in a chair in my living room watching the world go by.
“It feels like the jigsaw puzzle pieces of my life are slowly taking shape again. I’m now registered disabled. I’m not the same person, and I probably never will be the same person again. But I’m determined to make things work.”