Newry man PJ McCann’s life changed in more ways than one when he suffered a stroke.
PJ, who had his own business as a driving instructor, felt unwell as he stopped to pick up a pupil in November 2012. By the time an ambulance arrived, he could not move his left arm or leg. But the stroke also did something else – it changed his personality.
Before that was discovered,
however, he had to negotiate the long road to physical recovery.
On arrival at Daisy Hill Hospital, PJ was given a clot–busting drug, which contributed to some power returning to the left side of his body. But he suffered an infection linked to a pre–existing bowel problem and had to have part of the bowel removed. When he was eventually allowed home just before Christmas, he was determined that physical disability was not going to prevent him sleeping in his own bed.
Because of the exhausting effort, it took him one and a half hours to climb the stairs on the first night, and a similar length of time to come down the next day.
PJ thought he and his wife Ann were on their own from that point on.
But then he met Ann McAlinden, Northern Ireland Chest Heart &
Stroke’s Stroke Family Support Co–ordinator in Newry.
Ann introduced him to the PREP Programme, which is a six–week programme of physiotherapist–led exercises and health information which people can take after the three months of Health Service physiotherapy ends.
”It made all the difference,” says PJ. “At that point I couldn’t drive and therefore couldn’t work. I was basically confined to the house.
Before the PREP programme I used to sit and cry. I knew that without it I was at risk of falling into depression like a lot of other stroke survivors. But it taught me how to overcome fatigue and kept me focused on recovering.”
PJ’s wife Ann has been helped by the charity, too. She praises its information leaflets about stroke and says she knows that when he is with the PREP group he is happy and safe.
The couple noticed PJ’s personality change when nurses commented on how outgoing, funny and witty he was. Before that he had been quieter and more serious. He has also developed sleep apnoea,
a condition that interrupts the breathing at night. He now wears a pressurised mask while sleeping to relieve it.
Since taking part in the PREP Programme he now has the confidence to do things like go to Belfast alone on the train and carry a tray of tea and toast up the stairs, although the very idea panics Ann.
The PREP Programme transformed PJ’s life so much, that he has been inspired to not only volunteer for the charity, but is helping to raise funds in support of this life–changing service. The couple believe that without NICHS, PJ’s recovery would not have been as successful, which is why they want to encourage everyone who can, to help:
“Please – If you can – even in the smallest way – help NICHS to fund and expand this unique programme to reach more people like me. It really could change their lives forever.
£10 could help provide life–changing support for a stroke survivor
£15 would help pay for one person to get their life back on a PREP Programme for one week
£24 could help pay for activities and equipment for one person for an entire year.
You can make your donation by clicking the Donate button below.
Thank you for making such an incredible difference ”. PJ.