Helen H’s Story

“I used to be a Director of my own Greetings Cards Company when my life changed in January 2002. I began to have a really bad headache (probably as a result of stress at work) and then collapsed one Sunday morning.

Having been rushed to hospital I then foolishly discharged myself (couldn’t wait to be seen!). I saw my own Dr and then a Neurologist who got me a MRI scan. That revealed that I had had a stroke ! I was only in my mid 30’s and was then off work. In April 2002 I then had some significant seizures which was attributable to the Stroke and which was then diagnosed as epilepsy.

Since then I have had separate small stroke called transient ischemic attacks or TIA’s. This all resulted in me having to give up driving (but there was I thinking that the neighbours might have thought I was a drink driver as a result !) My confidence was shattered and for a period of time I couldn’t set foot out of my own house for fear of me having me another seizure but with the help and support of many people including my 2 dogs at that time (Tom – a West Highland Terrier & Happy – a Cocker Spaniel) I gradually felt better.

Life long tablets were administered which thankfully help to manage my epilepsy, but most recently in the last 2 years and after being 9 years seizure free and living a somewhat ‘normal’ life, I had another episode of brain activity that we thought was possibly another Stroke. It turned out to be seizure epilepsy related again. My confidence was again shattered.

In order to help me get my confidence back as communication became a struggle too, I became aware of Living with Aphasia based in Exeter. My first visit to their afternoon 2 hour get together was I thought bound to be intimidating. My husband, Darren, who has been so supportive joined me with that first meeting.

Living with Aphasia has made me aware that I suffer with my speech and language. I have been surrounded with others who have been through similar life experiences and in some cases far worse experiences than my own. But sharing these experiences has given me far more confidence and we have collectively shared our own journeys particularly when we have joined the conversational Drop in groups; Art Groups; and the singing Group (though I am not a singer!). The confidence and support that Living with Aphasia has given me now means that I can take this into my workplace.

I now work for Hotel Chocolat in Exeter and I also wear a Sunflower Lanyard which shows to customers that I have a Hidden Disability to indicate they may need extra care & patience when I serve them!

Latterly due to the current Covid-19 pandemic the Living with Aphasia group has continued to meet via Zoom meetings and so we have met virtually meaning that the on going support of the group remains.”