Climber Steve Bowker's life changed dramatically when he had a stroke while 30 foot up a rock face in the Peak District. He shares his story:
'My lifelong passion has been climbing. It has taken me all over the world. Then, while climbing at Bamford Edge in the Peak District in 2016, I started to feel unwell. I didn't know what was happening, but fortunately my climbing partner realised something was seriously wrong and arranged mountain rescue recovery.
I spent two months recovering in hospital. In my 40 years of extreme adventures, I've never faced anything as scary as finding myself in a wheelchair with no control over my own limbs. After five years of rehabilitation, I've learned to walk again but I still have no use of my left side. This is particularly challenging as I was left handed!
My whole lifestyle has changed completely. I'm no longer fully independent or able to be as spontaneous as I'd like, but I'm adapting. I can't put up a tent anymore, so I bought a campervan and had it adapted for one-handed driving, so I can still get away to the mountains.
Over the last two years, I've been working to complete post-stroke ascents of all 214 'Wainwright Peaks' in the Lake District. What started out as a personal challenge and a way of maintaining a new focus in my post-stroke world, developed into a fundraising opportunity to help stroke survivors.
I've been tested by bogs, tied-up gates and dodgy stiles, beaten back by gale-force winds, endured miles of tussocked ground and survived several navigational challenges. However, after every knock-back, I've returned to make amends and to show these fells who's boss.
Throughout this challenge, I've improved my walking skills and re-learned how to do things like putting a rucksack on my back by myself. I've also enjoyed discovering the lesser used, sometimes more accessible, routes up the popular peaks.
I climbed the final Wainwright Peak in October 2020. I've raised over £1,900 so far to help support and inspire other stroke survivors. I want to show that there is hope after stroke - that with determination, it's possible to make some sort of recovery, fulfil personal goals and have adventures. And maybe one day, I'll even re-learn how to tie my own bootlaces!'
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Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the spring 2021 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.