12 years ago, at the age of 43, I very unexpectedly suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke. I was fit and healthy at the time, my consultant even remarked that I was the last person he expected to have a stroke.
A little bit about Chris
12 years ago, at the age of 43, I very unexpectedly suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke. I was fit and healthy at the time, my consultant even remarked that I was the last person he expected to have a stroke. My absolute passion in life was playing guitar and I had become quite an accomplished musician, playing guitar was my superpower. My stroke took that from me and reset my life, taking me to rock bottom, I lost everything. Initially the whole left side of my body was completely paralyzed. Some very limited movement returned after a few months, but beyond that, any further progress would come through intense physiotherapy and my own determination to get my life back.
My dedication to recovery
Since those dark days I have worked hard on my recovery. While I now have a long-term disability, I try to not let it get in my way and I work hard on my physical health and fitness. I was lucky to find, locally, a wonderful and inspiring neuro-physio named Maria who really championed strength training which I now really believe is essential after stroke. In 2014, I was fortunate to be one of the first people to take part in Professor Nick Ward’s Upper Limb Neurorehabilitation Programme at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London.
This really helped motivate me to believe that anything is possible after stroke. However, still unable to play guitar, I taught myself to play keys one-handed and eventually got back to playing live, albeit in a different way.
Finding my way forward
In 2016, feeling that I needed to be doing something more fulfilling with my life, I began training as a counsellor. In 2020, I gained a foundation degree and then in 2021 gained a BSc in counselling. I now work for a charity three days a week working with people with cancer and other life-threatening health conditions.
Life is certainly not what it was pre-stroke, but it is far from over.
Initially devastating, my stroke has led me to new opportunities, friends, and things which I would otherwise never have experienced.
What is missing from recovery
I received a lot of support with the physical side of stroke, but it seems emotional support is not so readily available; I feel this is vital in processing the devastating impact of stroke and negotiating the difficult path in rebuilding a life. I still suffer with continuous neuropathic pain in my left arm and hand, part of my face remains numb and I have to cope with relentless fatigue.
There is still progress to be made and I am determined to make it.
Advice to other survivors
My advice to other survivors would be, don’t give up, there is life after stroke, but it may take time to discover your path so seek support and comfort wherever you can find it.
To caregivers I would say, stroke is devastating. Imagine losing everything, especially your dignity and independence, these two I feel are particularly important. Stroke can bring a huge sense of vulnerability. It can be impossible to imagine life improving in the early days after stroke. Survivors need kindness, comfort, empathy and patience. Providing an emotionally comfortable and safe environment can assist recovery but also as a carer, take comfort and support yourselves to be able to continue in your role.
A saying I have latched onto in my recovery journey is ‘Fortune favours the brave’. Be brave in finding life after stroke, it is likely to be tough.’