Adjusting to life after stroke can be a disorientating experience for stroke survivors and carers. And since the coronavirus pandemic, many are feeling more lonely and disconnected than ever.
Stroke survivor Alaire Fridd, understands just how practically and emotionally challenging stroke can be. That's why she started volunteering for Here For You. Our new telephone support service connects stroke survivors and carers with volunteers who can offer support and reassurance to help you rebuild your life after stroke. Or they can just listen if you'd like someone to talk to.
Alaire had a stroke in November 2017. 'I was in Maidstone Hospital for five weeks,' she remembers. 'I now have limited use of my left hand and arm, drop-foot and hyperextension in my left knee, which makes walking difficult. However, I recently met a stroke survivor online who terms herself 'differently able', and I want to remember that from now on!
'While I was in hospital, I met Maria. We both had a stroke on the same day, and were on the same recovery ward. On discharge, we went our separate ways, but promised to keep in touch by text - which we did, until I dropped my phone in the toilet and lost all my contacts!
'I moved to live with my daughter and son-in-law in Gloucestershire. Shortly after, I discovered that a stroke group was being set up in the area. I thought joining would be a useful way of getting to know people and making new friends, so I gamely went to the inaugural meeting. Who was to know what opportunities it would open up?
'I'd been volunteering with Gloucester and Cheltenham Stroke Group and had recently been part of a research project too, when I heard about Here For You. I thought it would be an interesting challenge, and a chance to use my experience to help others who'd recently had a stroke.
'I applied for the Lived Experience Telephone Volunteer role, and attended the online training. During one of the sessions, I noticed that there was a 'Maria from Maidstone' on the course. Could it be the same Maria?
'Maria also spotted my name and texted me after the session to see if I was 'that' Alaire. What a pleasure it was to hear from her again! We've since been catching up with each other's news and the progress we've made since our strokes. I'm looking forward to keeping in touch and renewing our friendship.
'I've been volunteering with Here For You for a couple of months now and have been matched with a few people affected by stroke. I'm always thinking about what I can give people during the call. Sometimes sharing my experience of stroke is helpful because it lets them know that they aren't the only person feeling like that. At other times, it's about giving someone a bit of encouragement or just listening.
'I really wish this initiative had been available after I had my stroke. I suffered from depression - a hidden effect of stroke - and it would've been lovely to have had a friendly voice to talk to.
'Volunteering has given me something to look forward to each week, especially during lockdown. It gives me purpose and makes me feel useful, which is important to my well-being. That date in the diary also seems all the more important because you know the other person is also looking forward to the call.
'For anyone thinking about volunteering - just give it a go! I get as much out of the calls as the person I am supporting. Although I was nervous when I made my first calls, we'd had excellent training that helped me feel confident and made it much easier.'
Find out more
Learn more about volunteering or using our Here For You service.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the summer 2020 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.