Daily Mail

I had a stroke – now I’m as­sist­ing oth­ers like me

- Brighton · Iceland · Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. · Brighton & Hove · Hove · London · Belgium · Austria · Belarus · Worthing

FIVE years af­ter hav­ing a stroke,

COLIN LYALL, 56, who ran a team of 70 en­gi­neers, has vol­un­teered as a be­frien­der for stroke pa­tients, vis­it­ing them in hospi­tals, care homes or their own homes. Colin, who lives in Brighton, is mar­ried to Chrissie, 59, a hair­dresser. EIGH­TEEN months ago, I was sit­ting op­po­site a 90-year-old man who was strug­gling to speak af­ter a stroke.

Hav­ing suf­fered a stroke my­self al­most two years ear­lier, I fully un­der­stood how he felt, as I too had ex­pe­ri­enced apha­sia — dif­fi­culty with lan­guage or speech — as a re­sult.

Then I re­called that he, like me, was a fan of our lo­cal foot­ball team.

So I leaned for­ward and sug­gested: ‘Why don’t you say “seag­ulls”, ’ which is the nick­name of our team, Brighton and Hove Al­bion. His mouth formed the shape of the word and, af­ter try­ing again and again, he fi­nally man­aged to say ‘Seeeeaaaag­ul­l­lls’. He was thrilled, and so was his wife. It was one of those won­der­ful mo­ments when you know you’ve made a dif­fer­ence.

Be­fore my stroke in 2014 I com­muted from Brighton to Lon­don, where I was in charge of a team of en­gi­neers. Of­ten my days ran from 6am un­til 10pm, be­cause I’d be net­work­ing with clients in the evening.

It was very stress­ful but I loved it. Then one morn­ing at 4am, I tried to get out of bed to go to the loo and I couldn’t walk. Chrissie called an am­bu­lance — I didn’t re­alise I’d had a stroke. I just wanted to sleep.

I re­mained in hos­pi­tal for a week, and even when stroke was di­ag­nosed I thought I’d be bet­ter within a cou­ple of weeks.

My right side was weak and I walked with a stick, but the stroke had wiped out my speech. All I could say were ‘yes’, ‘no’ and swear words. I had to re-learn how to speak, but the ef­fort left me frus­trated and ex­hausted.

When I went home, I had a speech ther­a­pist ev­ery other day for three months, for an hour each time. Although my speech has only re­cov­ered to 80 per cent now, it’s far bet­ter than it was. I wanted to go back to work and tried go­ing into the of­fice but I couldn’t read and write any more. Even drink­ing from a wa­ter bot­tle was an or­deal, as I’d lost my spa­tial aware­ness.

It be­came ob­vi­ous that I couldn’t go back to work and although I’m nat­u­rally cheer­ful, it was re­ally tough to know I couldn’t go back to the old life I loved.

Then, a year af­ter my stroke, one of the speech ther­a­pists told me about the Apha­sia Be­friend­ing Scheme run by Sus­sex Com­mu­nity NHS Foun­da­tion Trust. Vol­un­teers spend an hour of one-to-one time each week with stroke vic­tims who of­ten live alone or can’t go out.

It’s the sort of in­tense ther­apy and com­pan­ion­ship the NHS can’t pro­vide, but vol­un­teers can.

I be­friend five stroke pa­tients, whom I visit ev­ery week. One of them is in a care home. His stroke has left him need­ing oxy­gen through a mask, and he had to go into a care home be­cause he had no fam­ily and was no longer able to look af­ter him­self.

When I visit, I’ve started walk­ing with him to a cafe. It’s a change of scene that cheers him up no end.

Chrissie has seen a change in me, too. I’ve re­gained con­fi­dence and my sense of pur­pose.

Be­friend­ing also in­spired me to launch my own char­ity, Say Apha­sia, which runs drop-in cen­tres for stroke vic­tims in Brighton, Craw­ley, Chich­ester and Wor­thing.

The first 50 years of my life were spent as a high-flier, where it was all about money and suc­cess.

Thanks to vol­un­teer­ing, now it’s all about help­ing peo­ple to cope with a life-chang­ing event. I’m blessed to have had another chance to do some­thing I re­ally en­joy, and that I know is worth­while.

 ??  ?? Sup­port: Colin, left, with fel­low stroke vic­tim Trevor Vokins
Sup­port: Colin, left, with fel­low stroke vic­tim Trevor Vokins

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