Life After Stroke

This week marks National Stroke Week (8-14 Aug). Stroke attacks the brain, the human control centre. When a stroke happens, more than 1.9 million brain cells die each minute, but time-critical treatment can stop this damage.

But what is life like after stroke? We spoke to Bev and John to find out.

The Recovery Station team were lucky enough to hear from Bev and John in person at our annual training day. They graciously came along to share their story with our OT’s to learn more about their every day life. Why? Because this is the best source of education. Hearing from stroke survivors gives our team so much more than a text book diagnosis could ever provide. Thank you Bev and John.

Bev’s Story

Bev’s stroke journey began in 2016. In February of that year, Bev had a stroke which took her life in a different and unexpected direction.

After the stroke, Bev was paralysed down the left side of her body and she could no longer move and function in her everyday life. But Bev realised that she had a choice. A choice to work on herself or to give up. She knew that giving in would mean the rest of her life would be spent in an aged care facility.

Thankfully, Bev was able to move in with her daughter to rehabilitate, however it was always her goal to get back to living independently.

She worked with Occupational Therapists, Allied Health Assistants, and Physiotherapists to build up her strength and bring limited movement back to the affected limbs. As a result, Bev now lives in her own home again.

But she didn’t stop there. Her family knew that she used to love to paint, so they they bought her paints and brushes until she finally took the hint to pick up a brush.

Bev now enjoys using water colour and acrylic paints to create landscapes and more specifically, trees. She grew up on an 800 acre, fine wool merino farm and remembers the trees fondly. So when she paints, she draws on her memories of the farm and from photographs that her family takes on holiday. See one of her beautiful paintings below.

Bev was a primary teacher for many years and values education. As a result, Bev also volunteers at Newcastle University with student Occupational Therapists. The students can engage with Bev on a personal level to learn all they can from a stroke survivor. What a lady!

John’s Story

8 February 2003 marks the time that John’s life changed forever. He went from a senior position at Work Cover to his life coming to a halt. Within hours of his loving wife noticing that something just wasn’t right, he was taken to Wyong hospital and air lifted to the Royal North Shore for life saving surgery. He stayed there, in a coma for the next 18 days.

He ended up in the high dependancy ward and the work began. Physiotherapy was at the forefront of his treatment while still in hospital and this continued after his move to Rankin Park hospital as an in-patient and eventually an outpatient upon his return home.

Going home was no easy task though, his home had to be assessed to ensure that he would be safe. He also needed to work on his fine motor skills to ensure that he could do the most basic of tasks.

But at the core of all of this was tenacity. John had always been the guy that pushes through and never gives up and tackling his stroke was his next big challenge.

While the early days after his stroke included lots of Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy was added to build his fine motor skills, upper and lower body strength.  In his words “I wouldn’t be where I am today” without those interventions.

But his story doesn’t end there, John returned to work but not in the same role he once had. He also went back to sailing… He loved sailing for many years and with the support of SailAbility, he was able to not just return to sailing but to enter two World Championships! See the pictures below. His next goal is to compete in Portugal. And just to balance things out, he has even completed the City to Surf. Go John!

Since retiring, John, like Bev realised that giving back to the community that helped him means that there would be more support and understanding for stroke survivors, so he volunteers at Newcastle University too. He is also the President of the Stroke Recovery Association of NSW and is the Chairperson for Health Consumers NSW.

Stroke Week 2022

Around a quarter of first-time strokes in Australia happen to people under the age of 54.  During Stroke Week, we want to raise everyone’s awareness of the risks and signs of stroke.

This National Stroke Week (8-14 Aug) please help others to keep enjoying life’s precious moments by sharing the F.A.S.T. signs of stroke message with your family and friends.

Think of F.A.S.T. and ask these questions if you suspect a stroke:

😕 Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

💪 Arms – Can they lift both arms?

🗨️ Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

⌛ Time – Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call triple zero (000) straight away.

For more information on understanding strokes and how you can help support those loved ones you may have been affected, head to the Stroke Foundation website.

Until next time,

Side Note: Please note that the information given above is intended general in nature, please consult your physician or therapist if you have any particular questions regarding strokes.