Jamesie Nicholl was the captain and former team mate of Pat Jennings and George Best in the most successful Northern Ireland team ever. NICHS helped this soccer star tackle his illness.
After retirement, Jamesie continued to be active but in the few weeks prior to his stroke, he felt tired and listless. Jamesie’s wife Christine found him unconscious in his chair watching TV. He was admitted to Altnagelvin Stroke Unit. Although his speech quickly returned, he was left with severe right side weakness.
His initial recovery took 4 weeks and was full of anger and frustration. Life had changed and he was no longer able to do things as before. After leaving hospital, he simply stayed in the house. No strangers were allowed to visit. He was embarrassed and this period was characterised by tears, depression and a short temper.
“It was a difficult time for us as a family,” says Christine. “There were many tears. Jamesie had been a man’s man, a regular bloke, and here he was struck down by a stroke. We put on a “front” for visitors and family. We tried to handle the changes to everyday living as best we could, to deal with his frustration, depression, loss of confidence and self esteem. It was a difficult time for us.”
As part of his rehabilitation, Jamesie met Anne Marie Doherty, an occupational therapist with our Young Stroke Scheme. Jamesie found he had “hand to shoulder syndrome” which gave him severe pain, but rather than use potentially addictive steroids, he said he would rather cope with the pain. However, during the therapy recommended by Anne Marie, the pain disappeared overnight and has never returned.
Encouraged by his progress, Jamesie moved on through our Taking Control Self Management programme and became a member of our Brandywell Support group. He says: “I enjoyed it that much, and got so much out of it, that if it had started at 8 o’clock in the morning and ran into the evening I would have been there. It gave me the confidence I needed to get back into society.”
Jamesie is now one of the leading volunteers at the Brandywell NICHS Group. His story – and the stories of other stroke survivors – features in Stroke Odysseys, a musical production that filled Derry Playhouse for two nights in December 2013.
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.