The tireless campaigning of the stroke community in Wales led to the Welsh Government’s publication of the Quality Statement for Stroke in 2021.
Since then, we have been working with Welsh Government to make sure the Statement leads to better stroke care.
To keep government focus on stroke, in May this year we held our first event in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) since the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event gave stroke survivors the opportunity to tell government and NHS decision makers – like Shakeel Ahmad, Welsh Government Clinical Lead for Stroke – about areas requiring improvement in stroke care.
Michael, 29, of Port Talbot, spoke at the event. Michael had a stroke in January 2019 at just 24 years old.
“As a younger stroke survivor, part of why I’m campaigning is to show it can happen to anybody,” says Michael. ”I never thought I’d have a stroke. I thought it was something that happened if you led an unhealthy lifestyle or when you’re a bit older.
“It’s also important that people are aware of the hidden effects of stroke. My main struggle was psychological first of all.
“Seeing a psychologist earlier would have really helped my recovery. I’d left hospital six months after my stroke in a wheelchair, with very poor speech, very emotional and still struggling to come to terms with life post stroke.
“My physiotherapist at the time told me, ‘There’s no prognosis of how much better you’ll get’. I wasn’t ready to hear it. That is something people don’t often realise: the mental battle post stroke is just as tough as the physical.
“I had to wait a year to see a psychologist. I didn’t realise at the time, but I needed that help early on.”
Fortunately, Michael was able to connect with Neath Port Talbot Stroke Group after attending a World Stroke Day event soon after his stroke. He has attended the group ever since.
He says the variety of activities and chance to meet other stroke survivors has been “amazing”, and an “absolute necessity” for a stroke survivor. As he continues on his recovery journey, Martin even climbed Pen y Fan in 2022, raising over £3,000 for stroke survivors.
And he sees campaigning as a part of his “duty” to help other stroke survivors.
“The psychological side of stroke care needs to be better,” Michael says. ”I was in a dark place and didn’t see any future at all. I had to work on that first before I could focus on improving physically.
“I feel like it is my duty to tell politicians and decision-makers what needs to change to improve stroke care. The Senedd event gave me the chance to share my achievements and successes, but also remind decision-makers of the importance of support for stroke survivors, as well as making sure they hear from people affected by stroke.
“Many people told me that my experience of stroke really spoke to them. There is nothing more impactful than politicians and clinicians hearing from a stroke survivor. I hope to keep being involved in campaigning so that we can improve stroke care for future generations.”
Join Michael and campaign to transform stroke services by joining our Campaigns Network.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the summer 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.