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.