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Elizabeth Ashmore

”stroke survivors this side please”….

Today I was lucky enough to train with Tom Balchin who created ARNI Physio and works with Andrew Marr (recent presenter who’s had a stroke).

Me and mum turned up early, sat on a table, and I spoke to some physio who was going to be training us during the day, (stroke survivors not my mum).

Was a while until others turned up, with their leg swing walks and some in wheelchairs and drooped faces, hands and arms swinging down by their sides, I hated sitting in a room with so many people in my situation, mum could tell I was so nervous so she gave me my bottle of coke to calm down.

This lady started talking to me and my mum, the usual questions, ”What’s your name? have you been here before? Tom’s ever so good”
”What are your limitations?”
I kind of looked at her and thought ”is it not obvious?” But i’m not that rude so I just replied in a scared and nervous voice;
”oh I can’t use my arm or hand, I suffer really bad fatigue and memory problems” She smiled and thank god carried on talking so I could just breathe and concentrate on trying to hide my nerves.
Then they slowly appeared, One at a time, All smiling at our table of ‘stroke survivors’ trying to hide their paralysed arms.

The lady said she was cold so I offered her my coat which she refused, which I was shocked about, cause she then complained she was still cold…

I kept smiling at everyone Tom Balchin came over and shook my hand asking my name and how far i’d travelled to get there.

More stroke survivors arrived, this time in wheelchairs, I was the youngest there which didn’t help my nerves.

Tom then asked us to all stand opposite the Physio’s so he could pair us up, I stood their trying to hide the fact my Clonus (leg getting tired and shaking unable to stop it) was so bad my whole body was shaking. I just held my head up and kept smiling at some Physio opposite me. I got two girls who were so lovely;
Annie and Carol (around my age)
We then sat down to do an assessment where we had to scale things we could & couldn’t do 1-5 ( 5 being extremely difficult).
They asked me loads of questions about me, my stroke, my lifestyle. This is the first time i’ve spoken about it face to face with someone I just sighed and explained;
”Well I had a numb arm a month before my stroke and my face had started drooping I went to a&e but they told me it was a trapped nerve, I then went to sleep feeling really unwell knowing something wasn’t quite right and woke up paralysed down my left side”
The Physio just looked at me and replied ”wow, how old?”
”20 but i’m 21 now :)”
”oh so you’re a year into recovery?!”
”no, only 9 months :)”

Tom came over and read that I was asleep, he looked at me in shock ”blimey! so you couldn’t even be thrombolised?!” (getting rid of the blood clot within 4 hours of having a stroke)
I just looked at him and went ”well shit happens aye, i’m still alive and thats the main thing :)”

”yes Lizzie you’re right, just unfortunate you’re so young” (as if I don’t hear that enough)

We started by walking to the matt, where all the unfortunate stroke survivors walked to (or were pushed to for those in wheelchairs) My first task was to get onto the floor & learn to get up again, I was so scared, i’ve tried so hard teaching myself because NHS Physio’s don’t actually see me anymore. But Annie literally taught me how to do it in 2minutes and after the first go I did it! I smiled so much, I literally looked so queer, She saw how happy I was and said she was proud of me :).

I didn’t want to give up even though I was exhausted so we carried on training for 2 hours ( longest Physio session i’ve ever had) In this time I learnt how to; stretch my arm, Open my hand, squat, place my feet, balance on my left hand, Do leg exercises. Probably the best Physio session i’ve ever had!

After we’d all finished our training, we sat in a line opposite the Physio’s each one of us having to say; who we’d been training with, what we’d learnt and some of us show what we’d learnt.
Okay so this lady who was 75, in a wheelchair and couldn’t speak was with her husband, she’d learnt how to stand up alone, She showed us how she stood up and how to get up & down from the floor.
My heart sank, I literally had tears streaming down my face but tried to hold it in because I didn’t want her thinking I was feeling sorry for her, when all I wanted to do was walk over help her up and hug her so tight all the pain would disapear.
The most inspiring thing to me was a 7year old boy who’d had a stroke at 5. And he was so happy, running around and being so cheery. Such an amazing little boy.

I never knew how much a stroke could actually affect someone until today, The swallowing, speech, confusion, memory problems, walking, Use of limbs, Fatigue Oh god the list goes on…

This broke my heart, two ladies talking about the operation they’d had to removed half their skull, My mum told me in the car that apparently if I hadn’t recovered as well as I did in the first 24hours i’d of been sent to London to have this operation. Like, what the fuck. You never realise how lucky you are until you hear something like that.

My thought for the day is;
to just make the most of what you have, enjoy life and live it to the full, party hard and be healthy oh and get your blood pressure checked to make sure you don’t become a ‘stroke survivor’. It’s hard and will never end no matter how much I recover..

And whatever life throws at you, you can do it, nothing is impossible. You just need to stay as strong as you can.

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