A trip to France turned into a holiday from hell for Ballymena man Brian Meban.
Brian – a geography teacher at Campbell College – was with his wife Siobhan on Easter Monday of this year when his life changed forever. After suffering a stroke, he was in intensive care in France for three days and remained in hospital for a further 10. He describes the treatment as “exceptional.” Stroke consultants from Northern Ireland phoned every day to keep track of his progress.
But his only way of getting home was by air ambulance.
“The plane, carrying a nurse, was sent from Northern Ireland,” he says. “We were given a police escort right to the aircraft. The Customs officers were wonderful. When Siobhan went to them to have her passport and bags checked, they waved her on, saying ‘your place is with your husband.’”
He was given physiotherapy and occupational therapy in the Mater Hospital in Belfast for the next five weeks, finally returning home seven weeks after his stroke.
Adjusting to his new life has been tough, but Brian says it’s good to know that Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s Carol Henderson – the charity’s Stroke Family Support Co–ordinator – is at the other end of the phone when needed. He has learned an enormous amount about his condition in just four months – some of it from NI Chest Heart & Stroke’s literature on the subject. He is also determined to do all he can to maximise his recovery. One of his targets with the physiotherapist was to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Although he still has weakness down his right side and finds it difficult to walk long distances, he managed it on August 4th. He even stayed up until 1am partying with other guests. He also finds it important to get out of the house, to have appointments in different environments and to have a routine and structure to the week.
NI Chest Heart & Stroke’s support will become more important after Brian’s community stroke care – provided by the Health Service – ends. Community care lasts three months, but the charity’s support lasts for as long as a family needs it.
“After the physio and occupational therapy ends,” he says, “I expect it will be easy to become more isolated. It’s good to know that Carol is around and that there are support groups and other programmes available.”
Brian is also hoping to return to work. He would like a phased return from next Easter, but this will depend on a number of factors.
He hopes his story – and his determination to succeed – will be an illustration to others in the same position that stroke can be overcome with the right amount of determination.
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.