Cof­fee ther­apy


On the face of it 18-year-old Si­hara Keerthi­wan­sha and 53-year-old Alas­tair McWhan­nell ap­pear to have lit­tle in com­mon.

Keerthi­wan­sha is a stu­dent start­ing out in adult­hood. McWhan­nell is an en­gi­neer with a fam­ily and has run busi­nesses and man­aged staff.

Both con­tinue to con­front and over­come un­ex­pected trauma and up­heaval in their lives. Both are stroke sur­vivors.

Isn’t 18 the wrong end of the age spec­trum to have a stroke?

‘‘I was in Sri Lanka with my par­ents for a hol­i­day in De­cem­ber and felt a weak­ness in my right arm, and my face started to droop,’’ Keerthi­wan­sha said.

She saw a neu­rol­o­gist who told her she’d had a weak stroke.

‘‘And then holy crap, sud­denly I couldn’t walk, and my hand just wouldn’t work.’’

Keerthi­wan­sha was hop­ing to be study­ing Food Tech at Massey Univer­sity this year, in­stead she is un­der­go­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion with help from Palmer­ston North’s Ste­wart Cen­tre.

As part of a sup­port pro­gramme with Massey health psy­chol­o­gist Dr Sara Joice she and McWhan­nell have had an in­tro­duc­tion to barista train­ing at Ebony Cof­fee in Feather­ston St.

‘‘Strokes don’t dis­crim­i­nate,’’ McWhan­nell said.

‘‘I al­ways thought they were some­thing that hits 70-year-olds, but this has made me re­alise they don’t have a pref­er­ence.’’

With no prior symp­toms, he ap­par­ently started an Oc­to­ber morn­ing nor­mally, but doesn’t re­mem­ber any­thing at all that hap­pened that day, or the day be­fore.

He is now apha­sic, un­able to read, but oddly enough, able to write.

McWhan­nell has re­tained mo­tor skills in his right hand, but is un­able to lift his arm, while Keerthi­wan­sha can raise her arm above her head, but has poor fin­ger co-or­di­na­tion and con­trol.

The cof­fee-mak­ing Joice sees as a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive ex­er­cise re­quir­ing the pair to make greater use of their weak­ened arms.

‘‘If I get them to do ex­er­cises that are use­ful, they are more likely to do them,’’ Joice said.

Stroke sur­vivors Si­hara Keerthi­wan­sha and Alas­tair McWhan­nell with Ebony Cof­fee’s An­nette Morine.

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