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Moving mountains: Dave’s story

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Dave Jones could not have picked a better place to recover from a stroke. The small former mining town of Ammanford in Carmarthenshire, Wales, is less than 10 minutes away from the glorious Black Mountains.

“My recovery here has been fantastic,” Dave tells Stroke Rehab Times.

“Some days, I want to get out of the house but don’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle. So the other day, I nipped to the Brecon Beacons, parked up with a coffee and just sat there for 40 minutes and felt brilliant afterwards.”

Dave’s steady pace of life today is far removed from the days and weeks leading up to his stroke. A regional sales manager, Dave’s patch covered the Southwest Midlands and South Wales.

The job came with all the stresses of handing clients and staff, offset by thrice-weekly trips to the gym and regular walks with his dog.

Dave was in the office when it happened.

“I’d had a bit of a heated phone call. As I put the phone down, I felt the pop in the back of my neck and had what I thought was a migraine come on. As all blokes do, I took two tablets and carried on.

“I ended up going home and slept through the rest of the afternoon. I woke up the next morning, still had this headache. And it didn’t feel right.

“But again, I did the bloke thing. Took tablets, carried on with my day. I woke up the next morning blind.”

Dave’s doctor sent the then-36-year-old to A&E as a precaution. And before he knew it, he was being whisked into the triage room and down for a CT scan.

He was then put into recess for four and a half hours while doctors determined where he was in his stroke journey and if they’d have to operate. He would go on to spend just under a week in hospital.

“When I had the MRI scan, I was told it was a brainstem bleed. Not many people survive that. It was scary.

“I was given six weeks of physical rehab and three sessions of speech therapy. After that, I was on my own.

It shouldn’t be like that. I think it needs to change because stroke affects every survivor differently.”

Dave lost the use of his right arm and right leg in his stroke and speech was a constant struggle. Thankfully, he asked the right questions and found the community neuro rehab team.

He also received invaluable support from the Stroke Association. But it was still very hard.

“I got to the point of ending it all. It was only that stubborn part of me that said, ‘I can do this for my daughter and my boy. I’m not going to leave them to pick up the pieces.’ I wouldn’t be there to play with my boy and take him to school.

“I was also dealing with the fact that I’d been told that I’d never work again. I was 36 and had been climbing the career ladder since I was 15, so it was a hell of a lot to take on.”

For all the progress made in recent years, stigma around men’s mental health persists.

Dave now runs a social media group through which he encourages young male stroke survivors in the local area to open up.

The 18 members meet up once a month for a coffee to share their stories and offer their solutions to the difficulties many of the members face.

“One of the guys experienced this sort of hurdle and the other guy says, ‘yeah, I experienced that and this is how I got round it.’ They support each other. It’s fantastic to see.

“We have conversations because it was part my generation to be big and hard. You don’t cry. You say ‘I’m fine’ and you carry on. But in my case, stress was a contributory factor for my stroke.

“Being a stroke survivor is not a family you want to be part of, but when you’re part of it, it’s great.

I’ve made a whole new circle of friends through stroke, not only locally, but all over through social media.”

Having made huge strides in his recovery, Dave is now reading himself to return to work.

While he says he can turn his hand to pretty much anything, he’s hoping to work within stroke, perhaps as a mentor or support worker.

“It means a lot when the guys thank me for letting them join the group. The group was one of the best things that happened to me because I wasn’t going out. I wasn’t talking to anyone.

“As I said in one of my videos for the Stroke Association: If my story or my journey has helped one stroke survivor, it’s all been worth the tears, the upset and the anger.”

 

HIWIN

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