Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke
Stroke Conditions


Having a stroke can be devastating, not just for the person affected but for family members as well.

People cope as best they can.  But if they do not have the necessary information, skills or confidence it can be hard to manage their condition.  It can be difficult to make well–informed decisions about their health, treatment or even daily life – let alone make plans for the future.

People living with stroke need information, care and support from others.


If you are affected by stroke, knowledge, skills and the right services are what put you in the driving seat in deciding what’s right for managing your condition and, most importantly, your life.

This section of the website aims to help people:

•    be better informed about their stroke condition,

•    know what support and services NICHS can provide

•    manage their condition and daily life

•   read about other local people living with the same condition

Click on the links below to read more about:

Stroke FAST campaign
TIA Life after stroke
Stroke in younger adults Caring for someone with a stroke
Our stroke support services Stroke survivors’ stories

Please note that the information on this website is not a substitute for the advice your doctors or other health care professionals may give you based on their knowledge of your condition.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted. Most strokes occur when a blood clot blocks one of the arteries which carry blood to the brain.If brain cells lose their supply of oxygen from the blood, they will be damaged or will die.

The symptoms of a stroke depend on the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage, so no two strokes are the same and recovery is different from person to person.

The symptoms of a stroke usually come on suddenly and are described by the letters F.A.S.T:


  • Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has his/her mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms? Is one arm weak?
  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time to call 999: If the person has failed any of these tests call 999 immediately.

Other symptoms include:

  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
  • Severe headache

The ‘T’ in F.A.S.T is very important as the longer the affected part of the brain is without blood, the greater the residual damage will be.

For more information download our What is a Stroke Leaflet

What is a TIA?

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini–stroke’ is a set of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. It can last from a few minutes to a few hours but the symptoms disappear within 24 hours. 

In a TIA, a blood vessel in the brain is temporarily blocked by a clot, but the body breaks down the clot before any lasting damage has been done to the brain.

But a clot is a clot. It may be temporary but it should not be ignored because it is a serious warning that something is wrong with the blood flow to your brain and a full stroke could happen in the future.

In fact, if you have a mini stroke (TIA), you have an increased chance of having a full stroke. 1 in 10 people who have a mini stroke have a full stroke within a week

The symptoms of a mini stroke/TIA are the same as the symptoms of a full stroke, though they disappear within 24 hours. As the symptoms don’t last, it is common for the person experiencing them to dismiss them, and think nothing of them.

Other symptoms of a mini stroke may include:

  • blurred or reduced vision
  • difficulty understanding
  • dizziness or loss of balance
  • difficulty swallowing
  • severe headache
  • nausea or vomiting

If you experience the symptoms of a stroke or mini stroke (TIA), seek urgent medical help. When you are having the symptoms you will not yet know if they will be temporary (mini stroke) or actually a full stroke. Don’t wait to see if they go away, call 999 immediately.

Sometimes though, it is only later on that you realise something wasn’t quite right. So if you experienced symptoms recently but didn’t see a doctor, you should make an urgent appointment to see your GP. Your GP will also be able to refer you to a TIA clinic.

For more information download our What is a Transient Ischaemic Attack leaflet 




Life After Stroke

Every stroke is different. Each person affected by it will have different problems and different needs. The lasting effects depend on where in the brain the stroke happens and the nature of the stroke. Common effects that you may experience following a stroke include:

  • Weakness or lack of movement in leg and/or arm
  • Problems with balance and co–ordination
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Problems with vision
  • Problems thinking or remembering
  • Trouble speaking, understanding, reading or writing
  • Shoulder pain or arm pain or stiffness
  • Feeling worried or sad
  • Problems controlling your feelings
  • Incontinence

In the first few days after a stroke, care concentrates on assessment of your condition and preventing complications. Once stroke has been diagnosed, trained staff will assess the effects and work out a plan of care for you.

When they are ready, most people are keen to get home from hospital, and this is a very important motivator for recovery. But it can also be daunting for the person who has had the stroke, as well as carers and family.

No single piece of advice applies to everybody. Many people need to make adjustments after a stroke. After returning home, it is important that you receive the necessary support from your family, friends and healthcare professionals.

At Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, we have a range of Stroke Support Services and Stroke Family Support Co–ordinators who can help you by talking things through with you and your family.

For more information download our Life after Stroke leaflet.

Stroke in Younger Adults

Stroke is often considered an illness of old age but many young people are affected too. It is estimated that a quarter of all strokes occur in people under the age of 65.

Every stroke is different and each stroke survivor will have different problems and different needs. Medically the effects of stroke are the same no matter what age you are.

The way in which you might be affected depends on where in the brain the stroke happens and the nature of the stroke.

If you are older the effects are more likely to be complicated by other age–related illnesses. A younger person may also be more physically fit before the stroke and this will help in recovery.

However coming to terms with having had a stroke can be particularly difficult for younger people, who may not have had a history of illness and certainly did not expect something so sudden and serious to happen.

For more information download our Stroke in Younger Adults leaflet.

Stroke can also occur in childhood.  For information on the clinical guidelines for stroke care in childhood and guidelines for parents of children with stroke, go to

Caring for Someone with a Stroke

When someone is recovering from a stroke he or she will often need a lot of help and support with everyday activities. Recovery starts in hospital but continues at home and can take time.

Some people will make an almost complete recovery; others will recover enough to be fairly independent and able to carry out most everyday tasks. However, some will improve only a little and will need long–term care.

No–one plans on becoming a carer and it is important that you get the right information, practical help and any emotional support you need, when you need it. Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke has a range of stroke services which are there to help you as a carer as well.

Download A Carer’s Guide to Stroke. Not all of it will apply to you, so choose the information that is most useful.


Stroke Survivors’ Stories

Stroke is a journey and NICHS’s role is to be there for the stroke survivor, their carer and their family as they make that journey, listening, understanding, advising and supporting.

If you would like to read or hear our brave and inspiring Stroke Survivor stories, please click an image below.

Eric’s Story

Eric, from Coagh, had a stroke 15 years ago at the age of 64. Eric ran a farm and travelled to markets all across Ireland buying and selling cattle. He’d been at a market one Thursday when he had his stroke. He was still able to drive home but really didn’t feel well. By the [...]

Tracey’s Story

Tracey from Greencastle, Omagh had only celebrated her 30th birthday 10 days before having a stroke. She had no history of illness or high blood pressure and in hindsight the only sign was that she had had a persistent headache for a few days. But being a busy young mum, she didn’t think anything of [...]

Raymond’s Story

"To this day I still remember the visit from the NICHS Stroke Family Support Co–ordinator. There is a lot I don’t remember of that time but I remember her visit because for the first time things didn’t seem so dark. She was like a light at the end of the tunnel. “She was so friendly [...]

Christine and Alan’s Story

Alan, from Dollingstown, had a stroke in February 2009 which has left him unable to speak. His wife Christine explains what happened. “We were on Facetime with the children the day before when Alan took a ‘wee turn’. He just disappeared onto the floor and was out for a minute or two. He wouldn’t let [...]

Jamesie’s Story

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 […]

Philip’s Story

I blame Liverpool FC for my stroke! It had been a normal day in February 2012. I’d been at work then came home and watched Liverpool v Spurs. They were held to a draw. Not happy, I went upstairs to go to bed. I had an early start in the morning, taking my car to […]

Eileen’s Story

Chest, heart and stroke health conditions are often linked, which is why NICHS works with all three. This story is about a lady who has had all three, plus other long term health conditions. It’s also a story about someone who is amazing and whose positive attitude despite all she’s been through is an inspiration. […]

Jacinta’s Story

Life changed overnight for Jacinta McCullough from Holywood when she suffered a stroke after being involved in a minor car accident last year. Unluckily for her, it was a Pontine stroke, which occurs right at the base of the brain in an area densely packed with nerves that carry signals to the rest of the [...]

Alicia and Joe’s Story

On Sunday 13th February 2011 my whole world changed. It was lunchtime, we had a houseful as always, and I was in the kitchen getting the spuds ready when my young grandson Harry ran in saying, “Grandpa’s stuck.” My daughter Sinead and I found my husband Joe lying on the living room floor, not moving. […]

Dorothy’s Story

Dorothy Menielly, is 77 and lives in Larne, she had a stroke 2 ½ years ago losing the use of her left arm and left leg. The stroke caused blood poisoning and resulted in Dorothy having her left leg amputated from the knee. Following 4 weeks at Antrim Hospital Dorothy moved to Inver House in […]

Louis’s story

I had my stroke in September 2012. It came on with no warning. I just felt a little bit dizzy and two or three minutes later I was semi conscious on my living room floor. I was very fortunate to get thombolysis quickly. The drugs help to break the clot up and improve the blood […]

Alan’s Story

This is the story of my journey with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke. Imagine the following scenario…. You either go for a run or a walk every day and at the weekends you go hill walking. You would normally work a 10 hour day starting at 7.30 each working day and you love travelling […]

PJ’s Story

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 […]

Chris’ Story

Chris Kelsall from Armagh will remember the time and date until the day he dies. It was 11am on November 28, 2006 and he was working in Wexford. Suddenly, he collapsed. He couldn’t walk or make himself understood to other people. He thought he was saying “I have fallen ill,” but the sounds leaving his […]

Jean’s Story

Londonderry woman Jean McBride doesn’t remember anything about the day her life changed forever. It was the 25th of November 2012. She was at her daughter’s house and became ill. Several hours later, in Altnagelvin Hospital, she was told she’d had a stroke. The hospital became her home for the next three months. Nearly two […]

Elaine’s Story

Elaine Jones from Hillsborough disproves the common belief that stroke is something that happens to older people. She was just 34 when a stroke robbed her of the power in the left side of her body, as well as the ability to see anything on the left hand side of her line of vision. That […]

Margaret’s Story

Margaret Robb, from Ballykinler in Co Down, knows at first hand how stroke devastates lives. Like most people, Margaret – who suffered her stroke in February 2012 – knew about some of the physical effects of the condition. But she wasn’t prepared for the effect on the mind. First, however, she had to endure a […]

Brian & Siobhan’s Story

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 […]

Jane and David’s Story

We all have a vague idea of the effects of stroke. Disability down one side, perhaps. Or difficulty with speech. But what about depression, isolation, inability to ask for help and even shame? Then there’s the burden on carers, whose lives are changed irrevocably overnight. Many of them, however, are afraid to say how tough […]

Humberto & Linda’s Story

On the eve of Christmas Eve 2014, my husband, Humberto woke up with a numb feeling down his left side. Both he and I thought he must have been lying heavily on that side through the night causing pins and needles. Anyhow we headed off to do some grocery shopping but eventually we had to [...]

Jennifer’s Story

I love everything about Christmas and was really looking forward to Christmas 2014 and spending time with my family because my life was busy and at times stressful. To say the 20th December was a bit of day is a bit of an understatement; I was in hospital twice on that day and I had […]

Mary’s Story

Mary Lockhart suffered a stroke in December 2011. She received the clot busting drug thrombolysis, but went on to have 2 further strokes shortly after. She spent 2 months in hospital and received physiotherapy, but she has been left with right sided weaknesses, and walks with a brace on her leg. As a farm owner […]

Robert’s Story

My life changed in an instant on 16th March 2013. I was driving a tour coach in Killarney but moments after stopping for fuel, I collapsed. I was taken to Tralee General Hospital, where doctors diagnosed a stroke. Although my left leg was weakened and I had no power in my left arm, I was […]

Benny’s Story

Benny O’Hanlon, owner of the outdoor adventure company Todd’s Leap, has made an excellent recovery from his stroke. He puts this down to the quick actions his wife Patricia whose instinct, after many years of marriage, told her something was wrong with him. At 6.30am on 20th June 2014, Benny, who was 55 at the […]

Chris’s Story

At the youthful age of 30, rugby star Chris Henry never imagined that he would suffer from any major health problems. However, on the 8th November 2014, Chris was left terrified when he suffered from a mini stroke just hours before the Ireland vs South Africa autumn international. When he got up that morning, Chris […]