In September 2015, Laurence Carleton had a stroke which resulted in him being in hospital for six weeks. He was just 45.
Four days of his hospital stay were spent in Intensive Care fighting pneumonia. Today he is back at work and, in his own words, “getting on with life.”
In the couple of weeks before the stroke, Laurence had noticed some pain in his neck and head but put it down to being busy at work. But after having a blackout while playing football, he went to his GP and was prescribed medication to help with muscle spasms.
Less than 24 hours later, Laurence felt that his head was spinning, but he initially put it down to a side effect of the new medication. He went to bed but when he woke his balance was severely affected. His eyesight began to deteriorate. He phoned his brother to ask him to take him to the doctor but by the time he arrived Laurence had to crawl to the door to let him in. He wondered fleetingly if he was having a stroke, but dismissed the idea because of his age.
Laurence finds it hard to believe when his friends and family tell him how ill he was in hospital in those early days after his stroke, possibly because he made quick progress with his rehabilitation after he recovered from the pneumonia.
The NICHS Stroke Family Support Co-ordinator visited Laurence at his house. She told him about PREP, our physical activity and education programme for stroke survivors. Laurence says he was keen to attend, to enable him to get out of the house and to meet other people who had similar experiences. One of the big anxieties of life after stroke is that the smallest headache creates the fear that another stroke is about to happen. But talking to other people and hearing their experiences has helped allay some of those concerns.
Laurence says it was particularly beneficial being able to talk to another man of a similar age with a similar goal to get back to work. Towards the end of PREP, he was able to do just that. Fatigue is an issue, but a phased return means he has been able to manage it.
Laurence now has a different outlook on life now, particularly where work is concerned. Before, he felt stressed. Now he knows what is manageable in a day’s work and no longer gets as overwhelmed about the things that are out of his control.
“I would definitely recommend people to find out what support there is out there for them or to take every opportunity offered. Getting out of the house and talking to other people is so important for your recovery.”
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.