I had my stroke when I was a child. I was nine years old and it was very surprising at the time because stroke was basically unheard of in children. When I went to my local hospital they hadn’t come across many cases of children who had suffered a stroke so I was transferred to the Royal Hospital for sick children in Belfast. This was back in 1998, so clot busting drugs and other specialist treatment were not available then.
I was quite lucky in the sense that I was a child because my brain was still developing so I wasn’t left with any physical effects. I made a good physical recovery but cognitively I would still show signs of my stroke. We have an ongoing joke in my house, my partner says I’m like Dory out of Finding Nemo as my short term memory loss is shot and I am not great with directions or things like that. But I have a good sense of humour, my concentration isn’t always great but I was still able to finish school and complete University with a bit of help along the way.
I feel really strongly that there is life after stroke. I think that is one of the biggest things I would say to anyone who has had a stroke.
It is such a devastating time and, meeting other stroke survivors, I have heard harrowing tales of how they cannot deal with the fact of losing the person that they were. So, it’s really important they understand that life does go on and you can go and achieve amazing things after stroke. I know two stroke survivors that climbed Mount Everest. I know nurses and doctors and others who have returned to their career. I’ve had three children, completed a degree and had quite a normal life. You just have to accept your new normal.
However, it is vital that stroke survivors get the care they need in the days, weeks, months and years after they leave hospital.
I would like to see stronger after care in place and a realisation from health professionals, and anyone involved in providing stroke care, that the effects of a stroke can last a long time even after the person seems well. You are not just suddenly better and then it’s over, you have good days and bad days, and people need to realise that.
Every year there are over 1000 deaths due to stroke, it is also the largest cause of acquired adult disability in Northern Ireland. It is such a devastating time, not just for the stroke survivors, but also for their families and carers. So, I would strongly urge everyone to get involved in the pre-consultation – if you don’t, you won’t be able to make a difference.
For information about the proposals, how to take part in the 13 week pre-consultation, and details on public meetings visit: Reshaping Stroke Services in Northern Ireland pre-consultation