Belfast Telegraph

Three years ago a massive stroke left Paul McLean unable to talk or walk, now he's about to be a dad

Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin. Paul had a stoke over three years ago and recovered after having the clot removed with new technology. Photo by Peter Morrison
Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin. Paul had a stoke over three years ago and recovered after having the clot removed with new technology. Photo by Peter Morrison

By Lisa Smyth

A man who was given a 10% chance of surviving a stroke and was left unable to walk or talk afterwards is now preparing to become a dad for the first time.

Paul McLean and his wife, Suzanne, had given up hope of ever becoming parents after he suffered a massive stroke when he was just 40 years old.

However, the couple, from Magheralin, Co Down, are now excitedly awaiting the arrival of their first child in a matter of weeks.

“We’re just so, so happy,” said 42-year-old Suzanne.

“Everyone has been so happy for us because it’s really brought a sense of hope in the midst of such a difficult time, so everyone has been over the moon.”

The couple, who have been married for 12-years, are speaking out as the Stroke Association releases the findings of a survey of stroke survivors and their loved ones.

The results highlight the devastating impact of stroke and underline how remarkable it is that Paul and Suzanne are now expecting their first child despite their harrowing ordeal.

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Paul, now 43, was left clinging to life and only survived after he underwent pioneering surgery to remove the blood clot from his brain and Suzanne described the panic of watching medics try to save her desperately ill husband.

“I remember the first responder arriving at the house and asking me if I had any family living nearby and that it would maybe a good idea to give them a ring and realising how serious it was,” she said.

“It was getting to the stage where Paul wasn’t responding at all.

Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin.
Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin.

“We were supposed to go to Craigavon but the paramedic took us to the Royal because I think he knew straight how bad it was.

“When we got to the hospital I was taken into a room and then into Paul while they were working on him and then they rushed him off for a CT scan.

“It seemed like I didn’t hear anything for ages and then I was taken to another room and was told that Paul was extremely ill and his chances of survival were 10%.

“It was such a shock, I knew things were bad but I thought he would be okay once he got to hospital, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Three hours later, the surgeon came to see Suzanne with the news that Paul had survived the surgery.

Despite this, he faced an uphill struggle to recover from his brush with death.

To begin with, Paul and Suzanne were told he would need to spend months undergoing rehabilitation at the acquired brain injury unit at Musgrave Park Hospital.

However, through sheer determination, Paul managed to get back on his feet while he was still at the RVH and he was discharged to continue his recovery at home just three weeks later.

He has since regained his speech and is able to walk without a stick but there have been dark moments for both Suzanne and Paul.

“I remember feeling sad about it all,” continued Suzanne.

“I just kept thinking that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be, that it wasn’t part of the plan and I really felt like I had lost something.

“Paul was struggling with his speech and before his stroke we would have had really deep conversations concerning lots of different things but he wasn’t able to anymore, so I just really missed that and I missed him.

“At the same time, we had always thought we would have children one day but it hadn’t happened when Paul had his stroke, so we just assumed it would never happen.”

However, they were overjoyed when they found out that Suzanne was expecting a baby, due this November.

“I was really sick at the start and Paul had to look after me so it was a bit of role reversal,” continued Suzanne, who took three months off work to care for Paul in the initial aftermath of his stroke.

Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin.
Paul McLean and wife Suzanne from Magheralin.

“I was being sick all the time but that left me about 16-weeks and I’ve been fine ever since and just looking forward to baby arriving.”

Paul said: “I had no idea the doctors had said I had a 10% chance of survival.

“I was so lucky, from Suzanne being there when I had the stroke, to the paramedics taking me to the Royal and the surgeon happening to be in the hospital doing paperwork on a Saturday morning when I had my stroke, someone was definitely watching over me.

“Things have been tough but I was stubborn which helped in my recovery and now I can’t wait to be a dad.”

According to the Stroke Association research, 89% of people live in fear of having another stroke and 79% are scared of going out alone.

Almost nine out of 10 stroke survivors said they fear they will never get better and four out of five stated that they thought they would be sent to a care home after their stroke, while 81% felt they wouldn’t be able to look after their children or parents.

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “It takes a team to rebuild lives after stroke.

“When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down, and so does a part of you.

“Recovery is tough, but with the right specialist support, the brain can adapt after stroke. I’ve heard countless stories, and know countless people who, after many years continue to make remarkable recoveries.

“The first step to eliminating fear is to ask for help and support.

“If you are a stroke survivor, this could mean speaking to your doctor or social worker to get some answers.

“If you know a stroke survivor, reach out, ask them how they’re feeling. No one should have to live their life in constant fear.”

For more information about the Stroke Association’s Rebuilding Lives campaign, log on to www.stroke.org.uk/rebuildinglives.

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