Helen Graham from Hamiltonsbawn, County Armagh, had a stroke in November 2015 at the age of 45. Helen is married to Stewart and is mum to Ryan, Laura, Conor and Alex. Helen shares why she volunteers with the Stroke Association and some of the activities she has been part of over the years.

Helen has used her lived experience to be an ambassador for stroke survivors and has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of stroke through her volunteering and fundraising.

“Since having my stroke, and knowing nothing about stroke at the time, I’ve tried to raise public awareness. Whatever I do, it has to be within my new capabilities, especially with regards to the chronic stroke fatigue which shadows me every day.

“There are lots of different things you can get involved in, whether on your home turf or further afield. You can make volunteering work for you, around you and your needs.

“In the days before coronavirus restrictions, most people were very receptive to you simply putting up a stroke awareness poster in your local GP surgery, health centre or shop. You could also leave leaflets for the general public to pick up.

“The FAST cards are so easy to distribute. I leave them at public transport depots and in phone booths. Small loose coin boxes are also available for free from the Stroke Association. I number each box and then keep a note of who I’ve given them to so they can be returned. This option is so easy and brings in a fair few pounds regularly.

“On a couple of occasions, I’ve been able to help raise stroke awareness with an interactive PowerPoint presentation at my local school and church. The first few times of doing this were daunting, even though public speaking was a regular part of my job before I had a stroke.

“Stroke completely shattered my confidence, but facing the demon has definitely helped to chase it away.

“Of course, during the Covid-19 pandemic it’s been difficult to be involved like I used to be. One thing I’m so pleased to have been part of is the charity’s Here For You service. I signed up to be a volunteer and talk to other stroke survivors who are maybe just finding their feet after stroke. I found it so rewarding to share some of what I’ve experienced and learnt since my stroke.

“I always try to remember that if you even make one more person aware of the risks of stroke, then it’s been worthwhile."

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