Chief Executive Officer, Different Strokes
Staying healthy is crucial in reducing the chances of having a stroke, on occasion a stroke may not be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, but from an often undiagnosed medical condition.
Andy had a stroke aged 46, in May 2019. He was camping with his son on a remote Scottish island, after completing a half marathon the previous day, he woke up knowing something wasn’t quite right. The local doctor took him to his surgery after seeing his face droop and subsequently contacted the air ambulance to take him to Glasgow. He was initially diagnosed with migraines as the CT showed nothing, but an MRI a few days later showed that he had had a stroke. Investigations then followed and it was discovered that a hole in his heart (a PFO) was the main cause and he had surgery to close this in January 2020.
Loss of identity
Andy’s career had been as a working police officer on the frontline, as well as being involved with training at the Police College. He returned to work in June 2020 but can now only manage 16 hours per week working from home, as he suffers badly with fatigue as well as some cognitive issues. Due to the effect on his career and that he can no longer take part in running events, he feels that he has somewhat lost his identity.
Stroke affects everyone differently, so to say that Andy’s disabilities are ‘typical’ would not be strictly accurate. Nevertheless, fatigue is very common amongst stroke survivors. Other very common effects of stroke are restricted mobility, and memory problems.
Fatigue is very common amongst stroke survivors. Other very common effects of stroke are restricted mobility, and memory problems.
The importance of peer support
In surveys we have conducted at Different Strokes, there are two main areas where survivors feel that they need long-term support. The first of these is access to rehabilitation. Post stroke-rehabilitation can be as short as six weeks, but stroke survivors can continue to make improvements in their physical and cognitive functionality for many years post-stroke, if they have access to the appropriate treatments.
The second factor is being able to access peer and emotional support. Having a stroke can be very isolating, especially for younger people it is incredibly important to know that there are other people of their age who have been through similar experiences.
At Different Strokes we place huge emphasis on peer support and keeping people connected, so that stroke survivors can share their successes, express their concerns and both provide and receive support from one another.
Approximately 25% of strokes have an unknown cause, so appropriate diagnosis and treatment of underlying cardiovascular conditions is vital in stroke prevention.