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‘It got me focused on moving forward’ Alex’s recovery from a stroke



QEF client Alex shares her story of recovering from stroke

I had a stroke on June 14th this year. I hadn’t been feeling very well, I’d had terrible headaches for several months.

Two days prior to my stroke, I saw a doctor who said I had high blood pressure, so I was given migraine tablets and started on candestarten.

On the 12th June I went for some tests at East Surrey and the next day the doctor said come in this afternoon, presumably for some results, but that afternoon I had a stroke at home.

I knew on the 14th there was something really wrong at lunchtime.

I was working from home and I went downstairs – although I don’t know how I got downstairs.  Luckily I got to the front door and shouted for help.

A neighbour came over who was a nurse and I said I think I am having a stroke. She asked someone to call an ambulance and then I collapsed. I think it was my body knowing it could stop.

I could feel the right side of my body starting to shut down, first my right arm and then I couldn’t feel my right leg – it was surreal, everything went in slow motion.

I barely remember the ambulance, although I do remember it being quick at hospital – I was straight into A&E and straight into a CT scan.

I also had an MRI scan. I don’t remember anything else for the next 2 weeks but I ended up on the stroke ward at East Surrey.

I was at East Surrey for five and a half weeks, but I wasn’t very well as I had a severe UTI so I was all over the place. I don’t think I was over the UTI when I came to QEF at the end July.

I was sent back to hospital as they thought I’d possibly had another stroke – I was so dizzy and my speech kept slurring again, but it was all still due to the UTI.

I was also diagnosed with vertigo due to issues with my right inner ear.

I didn’t really properly get into my physio at QEF until 1st August.

My whole right hand side was affected – I couldn’t stand or move my right arm, it was held up with a neuro lux brace to prevent my arm falling out of its socket because it’s so heavy.

My game changer was being part of the Bobath course that QEF ran. The whole approach was different.

It started right at the beginning – what’s wrong with my core, what’s wrong with my balance, I had real issues with perception.

So I would really concentrate on what was left and right, especially when my eyes were closed.

It was amazing – by working on core strength and my balance I gradually got to the point where I could stand. It was fabulous.

The Bobath course was more intense than normal physio – each session was 1.5-2hours and I was exhausted at the end of it!

My physio was on the Bobath course being a trained in the method, so I have benefitted from this after the course finished as well.

I used to take my arm out of the brace for physiotherapy exercises and then eventually the physios told me to take the brace off. Now I have a lot more control and strength in my right arm.

I’ve learned to write with my left hand though thanks to the Speech and Language team (SLT). I’ve practised this so much which has given me the freedom to write things.  The change from when I first started to where I am today is remarkable.

My right hand is still tight though, so I need to keep stretching the fingers out and I would like to write again with my right hand in time.

The SLT has also been fantastic. I could speak, but my right side of my face was numb.

I’ve been diagnosed with apraxia, so when I speak out loud sometimes, I can remember what the word is, but it comes out really slowly.

I’ve been practising reading out loud, which is hard for me as I used to read really quickly, but I can’t speak that quickly anymore.

I’m reasonably competent with cooking and I’ve practiced this with the Occupational Therapists. I’ve also made loads of cakes because I’ve been involved in the baking club.

I’ve really enjoyed all the activities here – thinking group, relaxation group, anything to do with OT, community visits. You have to embrace it as part of your rehabilitation.

I was quite worried about my first home visit, but it got my mind focused on the fact I could do it. The Occupational Therapist and physios were really encouraging me.

There is a pathway and then a step up to my front door. I went up the step and over the threshold into the sitting/dining area and sat down.

It was quite a long walk, and it was emotional, but it got me focused on moving forward. It was lovely to be home even though I only stayed for about an hour.

When I came back to QEF they asked me if I wanted to get into the wheelchair to go to lunch, but I said no I’m going to walk, it gave me a lot more confidence which I embraced and committed to.

My progress is massive – I can stand normally and walk although it is still a little bit slow and the use of my right arm has really improved.

When I first arrived I couldn’t get myself out of bed but I can now. I take myself to the toilet as long as I’m careful – I’m feeling much more independent.

My right leg is really heavy and I haven’t got a huge amount of sensation in my ankle or my toes, and I am practising to get more movement in my heal.

I’m waiting for an orthotic for a bit more stability but its going to be quite a long waiting time. You have to have a positive mind set though.

I’m a get out and go person anyway, so I always need something to do and focus on.

I’ll adjust to being back at home. I’ll be using the downstairs toilet and sink and go to a family members house for a downstairs shower room.

I’m determined to get upstairs to our shower room though, so my physio and I have been practicing using the stairs.

I’ve been up and down them a few times in the gym. My leg is heavy so its quite hard, but the more I do it the better it will get – as they say use it or lose it.

I had a very stressful job. I don’t know what will happen with work. Maybe I’ll go back part time, but I will have to see if that is possible. I know I can’t go back to what I was doing before though.

But I have got this far so I feel positive and  can do anything now. What have I got to lose! 

Find out more about QEF – Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People – here.