Stroke sur­vivor Paul is find­ing his voice again thanks to sup­port group

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY KATE BUCK

A LURGAN stroke sur­vivor has said a “se­ries of for­tu­nate co­in­ci­dences” saved his life when he fell ill sud­denly, aged just 40.

Paul McLean (41), an English and drama teacher, had to learn how to speak again af­ter sur­viv­ing the stroke.

He shared his story to help high­light the Stroke As­so­ci­a­tion’s Lost for Words cam­paign, which aims to raise aware­ness of the chal­lenges stroke sur­vivors can face.

Paul de­scribed how he was at home with wife Suzanne on a Satur­day morn­ing in June 2016

Paul McLean and his wife Suzanne

when she no­ticed his speech was slurred and asked him to do the ‘FAST’ test which helps iden­tify stroke. She spot­ted the signs and called an am­bu­lance.

Paul said: “It was a re­ally bizarre sit­u­a­tion and a se­ries of for­tu­nate co­in­ci­dences prob­a­bly saved my life. For one, Suzanne wasn’t meant to be there. She had changed her work plans at the last minute and stayed home with me that morn­ing. If she hadn’t been there and got­ten help so quickly I would prob­a­bly be dead. It seemed like just min­utes be­fore the para­medic ar­rived. Luck­ily, the rapid re­sponse car had been nearby. Al­most im­me­di­ately he called for backup and soon there were three am­bu­lances, the fire brigade and po­lice at the house. I’m so grate­ful to all the amaz­ing peo­ple who came to help me”.

He was rushed to the Royal Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal for a brain scan. Med­i­cal staff per­formed a thrombec­tomy — which in­volves in­sert­ing a small tool into the brain to re­move the blood clot which caused the stroke. The pro­ce­dure usu­ally only takes place dur­ing the week but the con­sul­tant who spe­cialised in blood clot re­moval hap­pened to be in the hos­pi­tal catch­ing up on pa­per­work and was able to per­form the life-sav­ing pro­ce­dure.

The stroke has left Paul with apha­sia — a com­mon com­mu­ni­ca­tion dif­fi­culty af­ter stroke. He ad­mit­ted the thought of not be­ing able to talk to his wife or friends again was “terrifying”, but over time he has been able to re­gain his speak­ing skills and is now a recog­nised Stroke As­so­ci­a­tion Am­bas­sador.

“As an English and drama teacher, lan­guage and words are a mas­sive part of my life, and my pre­vi­ous job as an ac­tor — no words would de­stroy me,” he said.

“Be­ing lost for words is sur­real, like your brain holds your words hostages, and no mat­ter how hard you fight, you can’t break free.

“I’ve been at­tend­ing the Stroke As­so­ci­a­tion’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Plus group. I’m around other peo­ple who know what it’s like when your words just dis­ap­pear.”

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