Belfast Telegraph

Bangor stroke survivors Lorraine McGivern and Steve Wylie skydive from 10,000ft

By Lisa Smyth

Two stroke survivors have celebrated their second chance at life by jumping out of an aeroplane.

Lorraine McGivern and Steve Wylie took the ultimate leap of faith with a 10,000ft skydive to prove there can be life after stroke.

The pals, both from Bangor, Co Down, struck up a close friendship after they suffered strokes - 58-year-old Steve had his in September 2014, while 54-year-old Lorraine had her stroke just three months earlier on May 29.

Steve endured hours on the operating table as surgeons battled to stop the bleed on his brain and he went on to spend five weeks in intensive care. He has difficulty with walking, balance and speech as a result.

Meanwhile, mum-of-three Lorraine had to move house and give up her job as a health and safety inspector because of the weakness and memory problems she suffered following her stroke.

"That was the hardest part for me, when the doctor told me I would never work again," Lorraine said.

"I think that's when I hit rock bottom, but then by some coincidence someone contacted me and asked me to go along to a stroke support group, which is where I met Steve.

"I remember when I met him he couldn't walk the length of himself, but he was always going on about driving again. But he did it, he managed it and now he chauffeurs me around and he loves it.

"There are a couple of ways to look at a stroke - you can think your life is over and that you should just give up, which is what I thought for the first year, but then when I met Steve I started to think that if he could get over his stroke I could too."

Lorraine is now working her way through a bucket list - including a lifelong dream to do a skydive - which she fulfilled last week.

The staff at Skydive Wild Geese in Garvagh, Co Londonderry, worked hard to ensure Steve and Lorraine were able to achieve their goal despite their physical limitations.

"They let us go first even though we were there later in the day as we would suffer badly from fatigue," said Lorraine.

"I can't speak highly enough about them.

"I was terrified before the jump when we were sitting in the plane.

"Steve went first and I thought, 'oh no, now I have no choice, I have to do it'.

"The first couple of seconds when we were freefalling I was absolutely petrified, I thought the guy I was jumping with had died or lost control.

"But as soon as he pulled the parachute, I loved it and I wanted to do it again as soon as we landed."

As Lorraine regained her lust for life through stroke support groups, she is determined to give back to the organisations who've helped, so she and Steve decided to raise money for the Stroke Association from the skydive.

"From the time I had my stroke I realised that the only thing in life that is important is your health," she added.

"I don't care about money or luxuries, if you have your health and the people you love around you, that is the only thing that matters.

"I would have been very career driven when I was younger and I worked and worked, but I can't work anymore so I consider my fund-raising my work.

"It makes me feel like there is still a reason for me to be here."

More than 4,000 people are affected by stroke every year in Northern Ireland and around 1,000 people will die as a result of a stroke.

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