“I had my first stroke when I was 17 years old. I also had another one when I was 59 years old. To describe how my life changed is quite difficult, because I feel like I have experienced three different lives during my lifetime.
Stage One – I was a bit of a tearaway when I was young. Full of confidence. I could run, play football, and had a good dexterity level.
Stage Two – when I woke up from a coma in hospital. I tried to get out of bed, but was unaware of the paralysis down my left side. I fell and hurt my head. I had total Aphasia at first unable to communicate at all. Back in 1975 the support of today was not in place. I did get some of my movement back after a couple of months. I was stuck at home most of the time in front of the television. I lived with my family then, and had to have help getting washed because I couldn’t get in a bath. I had experienced mental health issues, falling down a lot and most of all society was quite happy for me to disappear. I have had a lot of difficulties when trying to hold down a job. This included being diagnosed with epilepsy about ten years ago. Unfortunately I was a taxi driver then, so I lost my job. I trained at St Louis college for a year, and managed to get 7 recognised qualifications, but the worst thing was once a short time had elapsed I couldn’t remember what I had learned to do. I did manage to hold down a job for 18 years, but still had some mental health difficulties. That was until I had my final stroke.
Stage Three – While at work I tried to speak to a colleague, but although I knew what I wanted to say I couldn’t get the words out. Also when my manager tried to find out what was happening, I couldn’t take in what she was saying. I had suffered another stroke. This resulted in my losing my job and left me at home isolated. It is like I am reading a story but I cannot see all the words.
I joined a group called Living With Aphasia a little while ago. At first I didn’t want to get involved. I was too ashamed of myself. Luckily I had a support worker who came with me the first time. The other members of the group are terrific. We all have different symptoms of Aphasia, but we all feel included. I have achieved so much with creative arts, singing, helping to create awareness. I have even had some of my work published in a national newspaper three times. I still can have flat days, but our groovy gang supports each other. They do not promise a cure but they do promise to accept you as you are.”