Eric, from Coagh, had a stroke 15 years ago at the age of 64. Eric ran a farm and travelled to markets all across Ireland buying and selling cattle. He’d been at a market one Thursday when he had his stroke. He was still able to drive home but really didn’t feel well. By the time he got home, he suspected what was wrong and told his wife Pat he thought he’d had a stroke. She phoned the doctor who called an ambulance. At that point, neither Pat nor Eric realised how serious it was. Pat wanted to take him to hospital in her car, but the doctor said no, and Eric’s main concern was that he had tickets for an Ireland rugby match in Dublin that Saturday.
Eric didn’t make the rugby match. He was in hospital for 14 weeks. His stroke was a bad one and he I wasn’t expected to walk again. He was even measured for a wheelchair but that made him even more determined to walk. One day when Pat visited him he asked her if she had a notebook to write something down. When she asked what to write, he told her to make a note of the date as that was the day he had walked again for the first time. They all sat and cried, Eric, Pat and the physio and even 15 years later, it makes them emotional.
During Eric’s time in hospital, our Stroke Family co–ordinator, Noelene, visited him and Pat. Both of them got something very different out of her visits.
Eric doesn’t remember much about Noelene’s early visits. He says that at the time he was agitated and frustrated by the stroke, but there was never a point at which he was depressed. He’s a pragmatic man and his view was that rather than thinking “Why me?” he thought “Why not me?” His concerns were more practical about the running of the farm and how his life would change afterwards. Noelene allowed him to talk about these practical concerns.
Noelene also spent time talking to Pat because stroke affects the whole family, not just the individual who has had the stroke. Talking to Noelene really helped Pat as she was able to see that her situation wasn’t out of the ordinary. Other people’s husbands had strokes too, and she was able to see that if they could cope, she and Eric would be able to cope too.
And cope they have. 15 years later, Eric speaks very warmly about his weekly visits to his local Stroke Scheme in Cookstown. He says that the best thing about spending time with other people who had survived a stroke is that they are all in the same boat and can just forget they have had strokes. And Pat no longer feels somehow different because her husband had a stroke.
Always one to see the silver lining, Eric says, “I never took holidays before my stroke as I was that busy with the cattle markets. But having a stroke forced me to stop. Since then we’ve been all over the UK and Ireland, on holidays and visiting our children. It’s not stopped me at all. In fact, it has given me the time to do it.”
Pat and Eric are good examples of how NICHS can help two people impacted by the same stroke in two very different ways.
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.