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Linda's Story

01 Sep
Chs 3446 Linda Alan

My name is Linda Crooks and I live in Belfast with my husband Allen. On the 16th of February 2020, I had a life-changing stroke. I was only 62.

After my stroke, I felt like my whole world had come to an end.

But I feel so blessed that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke came into my life. The charity’s Post Stroke Rehab Exercise Programme (PREP) has helped give me back some of the little things that I love. It has been a turning point for me.

After my stroke, I had to re-learn to walk. When I came home from hospital, I couldn’t do anything with my left hand. I needed help getting washed and dressed as I didn’t have the grip in my hand to hold my clothes and put them on. It impacted the whole family.One of the biggest things for me was the emotional effect. I felt like I couldn’t control my emotions, and I would have so many down days, and be snappy and cranky with my family.

The day Tracy, a Care Co-ordinator from Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke first phoned me, I could barely speak to her as I was in floods of tears. Tracy said, “Come along to our PREP class on Thursday and see if it helps.” So, I did, and Allen came along too, and I am so glad we did.

Each week with a physio we’d do exercises like press ups against the wall, which helped with movement in my arm and with flattening my hand, getting up and down out of the chair, and stepping up and down which has helped me with going up the stairs.

Each week, I was finding I could do the exercises for longer. It’s really helped with my physical recovery – at first, I couldn’t control how I held my arm on my affected side, but with the exercises, I’ve got better confidence and control over my gait and my posture.

When I was in hospital I said I want to get home and walk Olive. I still can’t walk her on my own, but my walking has improved bit by bit, and with my crutch I can go out with Allen every morning and join them.

One of the biggest benefits from PREP for Allen and I has been the emotional support which has helped us both understand my stroke and its full impact.

Allen and I now volunteer each week at PREP, and at the Young Stroke Group. I’m so happy to be able to give back to others like me who are starting their stroke journey. While it is tough and life as I knew it is over, it’s not over completely and I have learnt to adapt. Now, my family help put up all the Christmas decorations and I dictate just how I want them! I even supervise them while they prepare the Christmas dinner. I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, and to adapt and find new ways to do things.

Allen's Story

Linda Alan Tracey

When Linda had her stroke, I can honestly say it scared the life out of me. Linda’s the glue that holds our family together. I look after the car and garden and do a bit of DIY around the house, but she looked after all the finances and really ran the whole house. It was a total shock. I was watching the rugby when I heard Linda banging upstairs, and I knew as soon as I saw her she’d had a stroke. I called the ambulance straight away and it was panic stations from then on. It was the worst day of my life.

When Linda got home, she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk properly or use her left hand. But she was determined – especially, to walk the dog again! – and with small steps she began to improve. The biggest change for me was in her personality – I didn’t understand it, and it was only when we started going to PREP that I learned why she was so emotional. I knew then not to be sharp with her when she seemed to be angry or snappy with me. I know now she’s just frustrated with herself, and it’s just how her brain has been affected. It’s helped me understand a little of what she’s going through, so we understand each other better.

I’ve watched how PREP has helped her improve, and when it came to the end I was worried she would slip backwards again. But then Tracy asked us to volunteer and it was a no brainer. If Linda was happy to do it, I was too. After seeing Linda go through such a tough time, but then seeing the positive impact and improvement she has made to the lives of others, as a volunteer was brilliant. She’s more confident and understands more about her stroke, and so do I.