Belfast Telegraph

Stroke survivor Connor Shevlin's job fears at age of just 32

Connor Shevlin at home in his garden with one-month-old Aidan
Connor Shevlin at home in his garden with one-month-old Aidan
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

A Co Antrim father has told how he has been left facing financial hardship after suffering a stroke at 32.

Connor Shevlin, who is from Dunmurry, took ill in June.

Two days after he got out of hospital his partner Louise gave birth.

He said he needs to get back to work but is uncertain what is going to happen.

Mr Shevlin spoke out as new figures showed 43% of stroke survivors across the UK under 65 are left facing financial hardship.

Some have seen a loss of income, faced discrimination at work or been forced to sell their home to pay for medical bills.

Recalling his experience, Mr Shevlin described waking up one morning feeling dizzy and unable to walk. He also had problems with his vision.

After a day, when his condition hadn't improved, he phoned an ambulance and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Following a brain scan doctors confirmed that he had suffered a stroke. He spent a week in hospital and is still experiencing problems with walking and his vision, and also has weakness in his arms when tired.

"The left side of my body is numb and my right side doesn't seem to work properly at the moment, but I'm working on that," he said.

Two days after Mr Shevlin got out of hospital his partner Louise gave birth to their fourth son, Aidan.

Before his stroke Mr Shevlin had a seasonal job in a local coal yard and was about to start working there full-time.

"It's hard physical work. We move and stack coal all day long," he added. "Well, I obviously can't do that now and I don't know if or when I'll be fit enough to go back to work."

Mr Shevlin has been trying to apply for Employment Support Allowance, but has found the process frustrating.

He added: "I don't know much about the benefits system and what you have to do. I've never claimed sickness benefit before.

"Now I really need some help and it's just so hard to get anything sorted out.

"I don't think they understand that, right now, getting up in the morning and getting all that stuff done is hard enough.

"I can't even go out by myself at the moment.

"I've worked most of my life and now, with our new baby and everything, I need to get to work. We need to bring in some money. Right now, I don't know what's going to happen.

"I said to my physiotherapist that I needed to get fit again and get a job. She told me that I would not be ready for that for months yet. I just couldn't believe it.

"As well as all the work and money worries, it upsets me to think I can't just kick a football about with the kids or run after them as normal."

There are over 1.2m stroke survivors in the UK, with a quarter of strokes happening to people of working age.

The Stroke Association's Lived Experience report is the UK's largest ever survey, with over 11,000 responses.

It found 51% of stroke survivors aged under 65 gave up work or reduced their working hours following their stroke.

Almost one in six (15%) experienced discrimination, missed out on a promotion, or said their employer was not supportive.

Barry Macaulay, director of the Stroke Association in Northern Ireland, said: "These latest figures show that many stroke survivors are facing a life on the edge of poverty; many have had to give up work, and in some cases face discrimination from their employers.

"This comes at a time when financial worries should be the last thing on their minds."

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