Thornbury & District       Stroke Support Group

Registered Charity No. 1129777  

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My name is Jill and I am a Stroke Survivor.  In 2012, at the age of 58, I had a stroke whilst working at home and it was the most terrifying moment in my life.  Strokes, like people, come in many shapes and sizes and it is the luck of the draw if you have a mild stroke (TIA) or a full- blown stroke.  Also, there are two kinds of strokes, a bleed or a blood clot.  A bleed is where you have a haemorrhage in the brain and therefore lose the workings of that part of your brain or you have a blood clot which is equally as bad but the survivor needs blood thinners to disperse the clot.

I had a bleed and my symptoms were that I lost the feeling down the right side of my body which meant that I had a bleed in the left hand side of my brain.  I was luckily blue lighted to the hospital within an hour with brilliant hospital care whilst I was there.

The worst thing is that you are not given any ‘instructions’ when you have a stroke and you do not realise that, as well as your physical disability you have mental depression and the sense of loss that you have lost the life as you knew it.

I came home and still could not feel the right side of my body.  I became a recluse as I live on my own and the only person I really saw was my sister.  I lost my lust and reason to life and became a frightened shadow of my pre-stroke self. I had to learn to write again and do things that were so natural to me before.

I was introduced to the Thornbury and District Stroke Group through my sister who knew a volunteer and I feel she was worried as I had been a hermit for about a year. Another volunteer came to see me in my home but I would not commit myself as I had no confidence left and was scared.  I was never pressurised but on my birthday I received a card from the Group and that touched me and I, therefore, with a little push from my sister,  phoned and joined.

The first thing I did was go on a few outings in the summer and, also, started to Swim with the Group on a Monday morning.  I sank the first time I went into the pool as my brain had forgotten how to swim so I was given a dedicated volunteer to Swim with me and she is still my volunteer for swimming and has become a great friend.  I can now swim 40 lengths on a very good day but always 32 which is half a mile.

I also started in the Art Group, very new to me, but I found that I relaxed whilst drawing, and having mastered writing again after practicing at home every day, I was able to sketch too.

Group meetings are every alternate week with the Art and I started to meet people just like me.  There are survivors of many differing ages and there are, at the present time 3 members who are the same age as me.  

Bowling is another activity that is provided by the stroke group every Friday.

Now I have talked about me and the activities of the Thornbury and District Stroke Group I would like to talk about the Group itself.  The volunteers are the most amazing people who will give you support at any time and are worth their weight in gold. As mentioned in the beginning I was a shadow of my pre-stroke self and did not say boo to a goose but gradually the group gave me more confidence, the volunteers were there for constant support and it was clear, whilst speaking to the stoke survivors that they had experienced the same as me but I could also see that there where stroke survivors that were far worse off than me. That puts things into perspective you know.  We have stroke survivors that cannot read, write or hear, they look just like anyone else yet their disabilities are there, some can no longer speak and then you have people in wheelchairs with maimed bodies.  Yet the one thing that binds us together is the Thornbury and District Stroke Group.

I have spoken about the Stroke Survivors, but now lets talk about their families and their carers. They need support too and we are all a happy family that helps each other as much as we can. Spouses and carers are always welcome at any of the group activities but some find it a time when they can have a bit of me time and the volunteers will pick up the Survivors and bring them home again.

Another group of activities in the summer are outings.  Some by coach and others by volunteers picking up the survivors.  These can range from a meal in a nice pub or going on an outing on a boat, train, or trips to interesting places, including a meal.  Think what it is like for us Survivors to be taken to places like normal human beings and to learn to laugh again.  It is a tonic that, I feel, others not being in this position, take for granted.

The finale to the outings is the annual holiday.  The volunteers have found a lovely, comfortable, hotel in Ross on Wye that caters for the disabled and has all the facilities required by our group. Entertainment is provided and the food is second to none.  We are also taken out in local mini buses to interesting places.  To many of our group, that attrend, it is their annual holiday as they would not be able to manage without the facilities.  It is also a time to let their hair down and you should hear the laughter, it can bring tears to your eyes, even though I too am a Stroke Survivor.  The magical thing is that we are all the same ‘we have survived’ and this gives us a special bond.  We are not embarrassed about our disabilities and this holiday can help two fold.

1.  If need be the Stroke survivor can come on holiday on their own with their fellow friends from Stroke Group and all the volunteers who give their time, and money to come on the trip, to look after us. This then gives the Spouse/Carer rest bite   Or…….

2. The Stroke Survivor can come with a friend or spouse with the knowledge that there is someone always at hand to help.

There is a great feeling of camaraderie on this holiday.

Ok so, 7 years since my Stroke, I am not now that shy retiring person that I was.  I am in constant pain which will never go away but I have a new family, the one that helped and understood me and brought me back to a ‘living’ person again.

During the last 1 ½  years I have been a Trustee of the Thornbury and District Stroke Support Group Charity and I am passionate about this group They bring laughter where there was pain and hope when there was despair.

I would not be the person I am today without Thornbury and District Stroke Support Group.

Please take time to read this story from one of our members and how she values the Stroke Group.