An entrepreneur who lost his business after having a stroke aged just 39 has conquered the milestone of returning to the workplace as he continues to rebuild his life.
Kevin Redman ran a successful recruitment business and lived an active life which saw him playing golf, running and cycling regularly, and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.
However, in June last year, Kevin’s life as he knew it was shattered by ischaemic stroke, which has left him with paralysis on the left side of his body which affects the use of his left arm and hand, as well as ongoing fatigue.
But in a boost to his recovery, Kevin, from West Molesey, has secured a job with the Oyster Partnership, one of the UK’s leading specialist recruitment consultancies, based in Mayfair.
“When I was meeting with my now team before I got the job, my biggest worry was whether people would take a negative view on me because of what had happened,” he says.
“Luckily, the people I’ve come to work for are very good. They recognise my skills and have said they will work with me to help me get through this period, and that they will give me time.
“On my first day of work, I cried walking through the station because I genuinely never thought I’d walk through the station again to get on the train.
“It’s a heck of an emotional thing. Everything is a milestone and you’ve got to enjoy those achievements.”
Kevin says there are challenges to being in the workplace with the lasting impact of his stroke and the way it knocked his confidence, but is finding ways to adapt with the support of his employer, who, he says, “has really helped me to get back into work.”
Kevin’s experience of stroke began when he was at an antiques market with his wife, Laura.
“It all came over suddenly. I felt really drunk, though I hadn’t been drinking, and collapsed into a stall,” he recalls.
“I’d thought stroke was an old person’s thing, so I sort of assumed I could get through it. Little did I know how damaging stroke is.”
Kevin’s perception of stroke as affecting older people is echoed by more than half the UK population, recent research revealed – whereas in fact one in four strokes happen in people of working age.
After being taken to hospital, Kevin was initially treated at Chertsey before being rushed to King’s College Hospital where he had a thrombectomy. He then needed a craniotomy to release the pressure in his brain and was in a coma for seven days.
When he awoke, he was unable to walk and in disbelief as to what had happened.
“I learned my left side didn’t work, and from there it was intensive care for a week,” he says.
“I went to another stroke facility in Chertsey, which was an NHS ward. I think I was on that about a week and then it was decided to get me closer to home. They transported me to Kingston stroke ward. I was there for seven weeks.
“I was incredibly fortunate I had a very good health coverage scheme that allowed me to go to a private neuro-rehab facility in Ascot. There I had physio twice a day.”
Kevin was determined to recovery as quickly as possible, but the impact of stroke was at times overwhelming.
Kevin says: “I think I was in denial for a long time. It takes a blooming long time to process this stuff because you can’t get your head around it all.
“You start to learn how much the body is controlled by the brain and that’s overwhelming.
“It’s when the small stuff becomes so stupid. For example, I’ve played golf for a number of years and then suddenly I couldn’t move my left arm.
“It’s easy to look okay when you’re not okay. The outside world doesn’t understand enough about stroke.”
Kevin says he really focused on his rehabilitation as his drive. He was in a wheelchair for three months, and his physiotherapists were amazed at his progress to walking again.
But when he started to rebuild his life, his fatigue and processing difficulties meant he felt no longer able to run his much-loved business – although happily, he has now moved back into the world of work as an employee.
Nick O’Donohue, Stroke Association associate director for the South East, said: “Our research highlights that people still think stroke is a condition that only affects older people. It’s crucial that we challenge this misconception and make people aware that stroke affects young adults too.
“After a stroke, life changes in a flash. Two thirds of people who survive a stroke find themselves living with a disability. As a result, young stroke survivors are having important milestones and their planned futures stolen from them, while they have to learn to adapt to their new life affected by stroke.”
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