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Stroke survivor Paul McLean finding his voice again thanks to support group

By Kate Buck

A Lurgan stroke survivor has said a "series of fortunate coincidences" saved his life when he fell ill suddenly, aged just 40.

Paul McLean (41), an English and drama teacher, had to learn how to speak again after surviving the stroke.

He shared his story to help highlight the Stroke Association's Lost for Words campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the challenges stroke survivors can face.

Paul described how he was at home with wife Suzanne on a Saturday morning in June 2016 when she noticed his speech was slurred and asked him to do the 'FAST' test which helps identify stroke. She spotted the signs and called an ambulance.

Paul said: "It was a really bizarre situation and a series of fortunate coincidences probably saved my life. For one, Suzanne wasn't meant to be there. She had changed her work plans at the last minute and stayed home with me that morning. If she hadn't been there and gotten help so quickly I would probably be dead. It seemed like just minutes before the paramedic arrived. Luckily, the rapid response car had been nearby. Almost immediately he called for backup and soon there were three ambulances, the fire brigade and police at the house. I'm so grateful to all the amazing people who came to help me".

He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital for a brain scan. Medical staff performed a thrombectomy - which involves inserting a small tool into the brain to remove the blood clot which caused the stroke. The procedure usually only takes place during the week but the consultant who specialised in blood clot removal happened to be in the hospital catching up on paperwork and was able to perform the life-saving procedure.

The stroke has left Paul with aphasia - a common communication difficulty after stroke. He admitted the thought of not being able to talk to his wife or friends again was "terrifying", but over time he has been able to regain his speaking skills and is now a recognised Stroke Association Ambassador.

"As an English and drama teacher, language and words are a massive part of my life, and my previous job as an actor - no words would destroy me," he said.

"Being lost for words is surreal, like your brain holds your words hostages, and no matter how hard you fight, you can't break free.

"I've been attending the Stroke Association's Communication Plus group. I'm around other people who know what it's like when your words just disappear."

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