My stroke journey began in 2006 when my father had a stroke. I was actually living in Canada at the time and I came home to look after him. Initially he was in the stroke unit in Belfast City Hospital where he got great care, before returning home.
I am registered nurse, but when I was caring for my dad, I took some time out of work, as he needed a lot of care. He was in a wheelchair and paralysed down the right side and had no speech. My father also had a few other issues caused by the stroke and he would get very unwell very, very quickly. So we had quite a few 999 calls and were back and forth into hospital.
Although he had a good care package in place, the carers would only be there for fifteen or twenty minutes and then they were gone.
Just through working with him he could do a lot of things himself and gradually, as he got better in himself, he could do more and more. He also got involved with the Stroke Association and that helped a lot with his communication, just physically he needed a lot of care.
After my father passed away in 2011, I worked as a health care assistant, before returning as a registered nurse. It can be a difficult road for carers, who take time out of work, to return to a career. However, it is time, I will never regret. I learnt more from my father when he had his stroke than I ever learnt in all of my nursing career.
I got involved with the Stroke Association first as a carer and then as a volunteer and I have seen how stroke services have changed a lot even from when my dad had a stroke.
However, there is so much more that needs to be done. It is vitally important that when a person has had a stroke they get into hospital as quickly as possible and have access to the very best specialist treatment. But it is when everybody else is gone and you are not under the care of the integrated stroke team that you really notice things. People who have had a stroke just don’t recover and then they are back to normal, so, it also really important that there is proper investment in longer-term community care. This is the area I think needs the most resources.
No matter what your stroke experience is, either as a carer or as a stroke survivor, it is very important that you share your experiences good and bad. It is only by making your voice heard during the pre-consultation process, that we can change things for the better.