Welsh stroke survivor shares their first glimmer of hope
Garry Rees, from Tredegar, is supporting the Stroke Association’s ‘Hope After Stroke’ Christmas appeal, after a stroke last December resulted in him spending Christmas in hospital.
Garry said, “It was a really difficult time for me and my family, we had all these plans but none of them could happen. It’s just the simple things you miss that you do every year. I felt really guilty for ruining their Christmas.”
The 55-year-old computer engineer was left unable to write, type or use tools, but says the Stroke Association’s support gave him the hope he needed. “Before I had a stroke I had a very active lifestyle, I was running, swimming and cycling every week but then I couldn’t physically do anything which really has got me down.”
“My stroke left me with right-sided weakness. My family were amazing, looking after me, helping me learn the things I needed to get me back to some resemblance of normality. I went back to my childhood, with Lego, Meccano and jigsaw puzzles. All helped me with my dexterity, and each thing I built, gave me a great sense of satisfaction and were the glimmer of hope I needed at the beginning of my recovery.”
The Covid-19 Pandemic had a huge impact on Garry and halted his rehabilitation as the country went into lockdown only three months after his stroke.
Garry said, “When we went into lockdown, I spiralled into a depression, I didn’t realise what it was. The stroke gave me heightened emotions where I get very angry or burst into tears and sob like a child. But I had no control over it. This was so alien to me as I didn’t know what was causing it or how to stop it.”
“I was feeling really isolated and then my glimmer of hope came from Lauren Heath at the Stroke Association. I was having a really bad day and then Lauren just emailed me to let me know that there were virtual support groups and she encouraged me to attend.”
Garry has joined a number of virtual zoom groups including the longstanding Blackwood Stroke Group. “I haven’t looked back, there are so many great characters in the group which has a lovely family feel to it. They know how I feel as they have been there too and that’s what makes the difference.”
“It has given me so much hope for the future and a sense of purpose again as I’ve been helping members of the group that have had computer issues stopping them from attending the virtual zoom group. I have been collecting computers socially distanced and fixing them. Helping others get online and be part of the group again as they have really missed it has been great. Just helping others and giving them hope again in these difficult times is so good for me too and helped me with my recovery. They show me there is hope after having a stroke.”
Garry is asking people to make a donation to the Stroke Association’s work supporting survivors and their families, as they rebuild their lives this Christmas.
Katie Chappelle, Associate Director, Wales at the Stroke Association said: “When someone’s life has been shattered by stroke, they may feel all hope is gone. But we also know that stroke survivors cling onto even the smallest glimmer of hope. This is what powers them on to achieve what many thought would be impossible. I’ve heard so many stories of remarkable people making recoveries even 20 years after their stroke.”
“This pandemic has had a serious impact on our ability to raise funds through our usual community events and activities. Many people in our support services have praised the support they received from the Stroke Association, to build on that first glimmer of hope so that they could rebuild their lives after stroke. Hope might be found in a call to our Helpline; through the friendship and support of our online community; or the ongoing support of our Stroke Association Support Coordinators. Rebuilding lives is impossible without hope. And that’s why we’re asking everyone in Wales to donate to the Stroke Association and help give someone the gift of hope this Christmas.”
To donate or for more information about stroke and the vital role that hope plays in stroke recovery and rebuilding lives, please visitwww.stroke.org.uk/hope