Stewart’s story – surviving stroke and supporting others during COVID-19
"It felt good to have a sense of fulfilment and purpose again."
“My career as a Primary School Headteacher came to an abrupt end following my stroke. Even with an outstanding response to thrombolysis, the emotions were fragile, the fatigue debilitating and balance ‘wobbly’.
Once sufficiently recovered, I contacted the Stroke Association and was welcomed into their volunteer ‘family’. It felt good to have a sense of fulfilment and purpose again, I particularly enjoyed, being able to contribute to preventing stroke for others through ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ events or raising awareness of stroke through talks to community groups. I don’t doubt that lives were saved by the simple act of checking blood pressures in a supermarket, café or workplace, since some were dangerously high – but entirely without symptoms.
All of this, not surprisingly, came to an immediate end upon lockdown, yet strokes were still happening at a rate of one every five minutes across the UK. It soon became clear through my volunteering work however, that hospitals across the country were reluctant to hold stroke survivors in their care for any length of time, returning them home, often without support from professionals working in community rehabilitation eg Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, etc. Many felt alone and abandoned.
That was when the Stroke Association called upon its army of volunteers to play their part, training each one as a telephone supporter for their ‘Here for You’ service. Each stroke survivor who ‘signed up’ was guaranteed a minimum of twelve weekly calls, reducing their feeling of helplessness and isolation and allowing them to ask any matter of concern. Sometimes, simply the encouragement that it was quite ‘normal’ to feel fatigued, emotional, etc post-stroke was all the reassurance that was needed.
On the one hand I have been genuinely dismayed by the level of abandonment and lack of support experienced by all those with whom I have had the privilege of sharing their lived experience journey.
On the other hand, it has been a genuine pleasure making new friends, albeit only over the phone, and hopefully helping them a little on their post-stroke journey.”
Please note these are the views of an individual Stroke Association volunteer not of the charity as a whole.
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