Geoff, from Parkgate, was struck down with a Stroke in 2010 when he was 59 years old. He was so ill when he arrived at the Causeway Hospital that he couldn’t be moved to Belfast’s Royal Victoria. All his family could do was wait. His wife Stephanie knew that, whatever happened, life would never be the same again.
Geoff spent nine months in the Causeway and Robinson hospitals. During that time he lost two stones in weight. He lost the ability to swallow, although he later regained it, and was paralysed down his left side. He learned to value tiny milestones of achievement, such as moving the big toe on his left foot.
Now, he can walk very short distances unaided but he needs a wheelchair outdoors.
“Until about a year ago I was very scared and depressed,” says Geoff. “I was afraid to do things.” His cognitive skills were also impaired, but Stephanie has noticed an improvement in the past six months. Geoff has started to write poetry about his stroke and his feelings towards it and this seems to have a positive effect on his cognitive skills.
To have recovered as far as he has is due, in part, to the intervention of Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke after he left hospital. Geoff attends the charity’s Antrim Stroke Scheme once a week, where he meets others in the same position and takes part in activities.
The first person Geoff and Stephanie met from the charity was Shelagh Cochrane, Stroke Family Support Co-ordinator for the Causeway area. Stephanie says she helped her, too: “If I thought Geoff would not be able to do something, Shelagh gently challenged this and showed me that he could. She was very good at persuading me to allow him to do things independently. I couldn’t praise her enough and we don’t think he would have come as far without her.”
Shelagh also introduced Stephanie to other carers, so that she didn’t feel so isolated.
The couple say that while life will never be the same, it’s better now. They celebrated 40 years of marriage last year and during a cruise they returned to Palma, where they had been on honeymoon.
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.