Stroke survivors reunite in Thornham
Thornham Village Hall was the meeting place for members of the West Norfolk branch of the Stroke Association who have staged a reunion.
The event enabled people affected by stroke to meet face to face for the first time since lockdown.
Al Ware, West Norfolk stroke support volunteer, said:"To date during Covid-19 restrictions the stroke groups in West Norfolk have kept in touch virtually."
The group had been meeting on Zoom over the lockdowns so to meet in person and see people who have gone through similar experiences and be able to share has been really positive. Some artwork produced by the survivors of stroke was available to raise funds.
Having a stroke can happen suddenly and without warning and is life changing for the person and their family and friends.
Rebuilding lives after suffering a stroke can be a daunting process and the registered charity works with survivors of stroke and those also bereaved.
Mr Ware, a long-term volunteer who himself suffered a stroke, said: "Everybody involved is a stroke survivor and we have a good system in West Norfolk. After suffering a stroke when someone leaves hospital here we can give you the low-down on what's available on the NHS and what to expect."
One member of the group, Pam Walker, 77, from West Dereham suffered a stroke two years ago which left her unable to read or speak at all.
She had been to a parish council meeting and went to bed. She fell over and had a stroke. The following morning her husband realised the severity of what had happened and called an ambulance.
With a speech therapist and rehabilitation Pam said: "The stroke unit at the QEH is wonderful, it was magnificent the way I was treated. I had a bleed on the brain and couldn't speak or use my arm and leg. The ambulance, hospital and Stroke Association have given amazing support."
The meetings also allow families to talk to and Pam's husband Jack Walker said: "When Pam was in there they got me a cup of tea and they cared about me too. Pam was in there all wired up but everyone in the ward took time to look after me too."
This ongoing support is crucial with volunteers, who are sometimes stroke survivors giving hope and strength to people to show that though life has changed there is the possibility of progress.
Pam hopes to become a volunteer for the association and said: " I would like to be a volunteer but I am a bit worried about my speech." Support is crucial too for family members who become carers for their husbands or wives.
Mr Walker said: " Everybody is affected in a different way."
Margaret and Brian Phillips, from Downham, have found their lives have changed since she suffered a stroke five years ago.
Mr Phillips said: "Margaret had a stroke about 9am she was i the kitchen making cup of tea and I heard her drop something. I went in and I could see she was not with it, I looked at her face and the side of it was down so I dialled 999. The ambulance arrived within five minutes."
Both Margaret and Brian wear a medic alert bracelet which identifies them and their medical needs. Margaret's speech is improved and she said: " I miss not being able to do the things I want to do. Never give up trying."
Mr Ware who volunteers and suffered a stroke eleven years ago at the bus station in Lynn said: "I have found volunteering for the Stroke Association awe inspiring. The revelation of someone hardly able to explain themselves to be able to speak freely is very rewarding. It can take two years to get back fully from it. Before I had my stroke I had been feeling fantastic.
"Then my speech was slurred and my leg and whole of my right side had gone but I managed to telephone the paramedic and told them I'm having a stroke."
The Stroke Association offers support for the survivor and the families as suddenly they may become very reliant on someone and if this has never been experienced it can be tough for a partner and creates a new dynamic.
The reunion was enjoyed and there was a lot of laughter with similar stories being shared.
Pam said: "It's frustrating, when people realise I'm not stupid the are ok. I can read now but my brain is a little bit slower. The speech therapist doesn't take prisoners."
Gemma Smith, support co-ordinator said: "I support people with communication difficulties after stroke and their carers too.
"Having communication difficulties can be so isolating and really knocks people’s confidence, so having support groups, where people can meet others in the same situation and practice communicant in a safe environment is so important, and I think people the general public are so more aware of how being isolated, stuck at home and not meeting others feels over the last 18 months so having events like Thornham and face to face groups for those ready to venture out is great."
FAST is an acronym used to help detect and enhance responsiveness to the needs of a person having a stroke. The acronym stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services.