Belfast Telegraph

Stroke victims should not have to fight for support, says survivor

Helen Graham had to quit her job after suffering a stroke in 2015
Helen Graham had to quit her job after suffering a stroke in 2015
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

A Co Armagh teacher has described how she had to quit the job she loved after taking a stroke.

Helen Graham still struggles with the after-effects four years on.

She was speaking as a charity warned that 59% of stroke survivors in Northern Ireland feel they did not receive enough support with their recovery.

Currently there are over 38,000 stroke survivors in Northern Ireland.

A survey by the Stroke Association found thousands of survivors struggle to access the support they needed.

The charity's Lived Experience report found:

  • 20% of stroke survivors here said they did not have the information they needed when they left hospital.
  • Although 86% of survivors were left with mobility problems, 48% said they needed longer or more frequent support from physiotherapy services than was provided.
  • 28% of survivors reported not receiving enough emotional support, leaving them struggling to cope.

Helen (49), from Richhill, had a stroke in November 2015.

Before falling ill the mum-of-four was a teacher at a local primary school.

She spent weeks recovering in hospital and was forced to retire from the job she loved due to the devastating impact of her stroke.

"It's almost four years on since my stroke, but I'm still struggling with the impact on my life," she said.

"It's not just physical, but mental and emotional too.

"I knew practically nothing about stroke, believing that it only happened to older people.

"I did not know that stroke is a brain injury. When I first got home from hospital I found that I was able to do so little and I really struggled with that."

Helen said the findings of the Stroke Association's survey came as little surprise.

She added: "The community stroke team visited me for a few weeks but when that stopped I felt very much on my own.

"Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband and family and that helped a lot.

"I'm not surprised so many stroke survivors in Northern Ireland feel they haven't received enough support as I've met many people since my stroke who have struggled to access things like physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and counselling.

"Having a stroke is hard enough; we shouldn't have to fight for the rehabilitation and support we desperately need to recover."

Barry Macaulay, director of the Stroke Association Northern Ireland, said: "Surviving a stroke is the first challenge; recovery is tough, but it's only possible when stroke survivors can access the range of support services that they need, and deserve, to rebuild their lives."

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