I had my stroke at the age of 66yrs on Sunday 8th March 2015 at lunchtime, while out on our daily regular walk around the village. We had just crossed the main road and I was thinking about our pending holiday to Brittany in June. My nose began to drip and I dropped my tissue on the ground, I was talking to Hilary and my speech started to slur, I slowly dropped to the ground where I stayed until the ambulance came. I was taken to A&E they were alerted on my impending arrival and they had my notes so they were aware of my medical history, I had a recent history of Atrial Fibrillation but on admission the heartbeat was clinically in sinus rhythm. I was given a CT scan that showed that I had a blood clot, I was then thrombolysed and transferred to the stroke ward for post thrombolysis care and observations. After my care and recovery I was discharged on the Wednesday afternoon, after I was made to see if i could co-ordinate making a coffee for myself, walking up and down stairs and going to the hospital shop to buy a paper. OT was happy with my capabilities and going home was next on the agenda. Thursday my GP made a home visit, Stroke team started their rehab schedule and
regular visits for 6 weeks, which included playing cards, and connect 4 became a regular daily game. I always use to win but now my attention was not the same, I was losing more than winning to my wife. Realisation that a learning curve was now needed to get back to normal - but then what is Normal? My wife, she too is
affected greatly, her life too has changed putting up with my daily different mood swings and the fatigue impact. Pulling together, having goals it is getting easier, but it will be a long slog. Love and patience is the way forward.
Meeting with the Different Stroke guys and group members is liberating, being able to discuss, exchange thoughts and experiences, is encouraging.
Alan Melville
Stroke Survivor
I am Hilary, Alan’s wife and carer. Alan had his stroke while we were out for our daily walk. He had no signs of feeling ill before our walk, and we were nearly home when I knew something was wrong, he had had a stroke (FAST). I called for an ambulance and due to the speed of getting him to the hospital and having a CT scan they could then determine what type of stroke he had.
Alan had lost the movement on his left side, but by the time visiting was over that Sunday night he started to regain it back. I was overjoyed and thought that my prayers had been answered.
I had no idea how a stroke would affect him or our lives. He has since made a very good recovery, however our family and friends could see nothing wrong with him, but I knew that he had changed.
His fatigue restricts our day which can be hard to plan a day out. I know life is different at the moment for us both and some days I have felt low and isolated.
Thanks to Andy, Ranj, and Jo at Different Strokes for their support and understanding, they have helped us both.
I enjoy going along to the fortnightly meetings, where we have met some really lovely people. I come away feeling upbeat as they all understand.
Hilary Melville
Carer/Wife of Alan Melville
Martin Straw
I am Martin and was a computer programmer until I was made redundant at 49. I decided to take early retirement and spent the next 2 years enjoying my hobbies, which included traipsing around the New Forest looking at archeological sites, attending meetings like science cafes and lectures at Intec Science Centre near Winchester and playing my music keyboards.
All that stopped though when, at age 52, I had my first of 7 strokes in just over five years. My sight, left arm, right arm, right leg and speech were all affected at different times The fourth one though had a good result in that it restored my eyesight which had originally been diagnosed as Optical Migraine, but it didn't go away and got steadily worse and was in fact stroke 1.
I have "cerebral small vessel disease" but the cause of this is not known so I have registered to help Southampton University with research projects and I have been involved with a couple of projects which do help to make me feel useful! I have also supplied blood for the NHS research study called "BRIDGE" which is part of the Genome project which aims to identify rare genetic causes of strokes.
Although I had very good physiotherapy from the NHS when it ended I felt that I was missing out on exercise and group social meetings/support.
I did keep up as much exercise as possible by going out for a very short walk with my wife every day as I am not stable enough to go out by myself. When I say short, I mean that we started off by just getting out the front door and slowly increased the distance by just a step or two each day.
Eventually by building up my stamina and taking plenty of rests on my walker seat we were able to get to the next corner and, having got my disabled bus pass, get on a local bus which goes round in a loop every hour. This bus was ideal as it would stop where ever you want and does not move off until you are seated! We were surprised to be greeted by several elderly ladies on the bus who had apparently been watching my progress as they went by each day. They were so pleased I had finally made it. Even now when we go out by car we often meet someone who has seen me and who asks how I am getting on. I like to be of use by providing entertainment for the locals!
I have found that it is the little things which can mean so much and if you can keep practicing them then you will make progress.
The local Different Strokes group has played a big part in my recovery since I was pointed in their direction by the stroke nurse. Ranj, Andy and the members of the group welcomed us both. It was so nice to find a group of people who, although their strokes had different causes and effects, had experienced similar problems to us. I enjoy going to the rehab gym at Therapeutics when I feel up to it.
Stroke Survivor
 
Louise Godwin
I had my stroke at 3pm on 13/01/2015 at the age of 36. I was actually sat at my desk, at work, and my right arm suddenly felt very heavy, so much so that I could hardly move the mouse. I decided I had just sat at my desk too long, even though it had only been about an hour, and needed to take a comfort break. By the time I tried to get up from the toilet I could no longer lift my arm at all, and my leg was going too.
I think I realised at that point that I was having a stroke but it only became real when I got to hospital and was told I’d had a bleed on the brain.
 
I spent a total of 10 days in hospital, during that time I had an angiogram which showed an AVM, an Arteriovenous Malformation, this is where a little vein gets abnormally connected to an artery, and mine had bled, so they decided to operate on my brain.
 
It was when I went home I really struggled, I don’t think the impact of what had happened really hit me until then. I live on my own, and suddenly I couldn’t do the things I needed to.
 
My partner was wonderful and moved in for a time, and with his and family support, and physio, I regained the use of my arm and started getting back some independence.
 
I am now back working full time as an Electronic Technician, and still get very fatigued. My stamina is improving but I have some cognitive memory issues, poor short term memory, lose words mid-sentence that kind of thing. On the surface, until the fatigue hits, I look fine but what people don't see is what's going on underneath.
 
This is where Stroke Survivors Southampton has been invaluable, I have met some incredible and inspirational people, and hope I can be there for others in the future as they have been there for me.
Stroke Survivor
 
I had a stroke  on 28/7/14 at the age of  45. I was really shocked when they told me as I thought strokes only  happened to the elderly - how wrong was I! It was quite frightening for me as we were only three days into a holiday in the south of France. Over the next few months tests showed that I had a hole in my heart and the medical staff believe that I must have had a DVT whilst travelling down to the south of France and because of the hole in my heart the clot travelled through my heart into the brain rather than my lungs resulting in a stroke.
I initially lost the use of my right side but within 3 weeks was walking unaided and by Christmas had taught myself to write again. The type of stroke I had was a left pontine infarct and the main problem I have now is fatigue.
On my initial discharge from hospital an occupational therapist that visited me at home recommend Different Strokes. I was feeling isolated as I was on long term sick leave from work so rang them. Since then I have never looked back - I was sent an information pack from head office which I found really helpful, I was also accepted onto their closed Facebook group and began to realise I was one of many who had strokes younger as well as older.
In the information pack was a flyer about Ranj and Andy's local group and I joined just after Christmas and it was lovely to chat to people who really understand what it is like to have a stroke and the challenges we face.
We all have varying degrees of disability both visible and invisible and we can chat and get advice on any ongoing issues. They were really helpful and supportive with me when my phased return to work didn't go to plan, giving me valuable advice.
Rather than feeling lonely, isolated and different after my stroke, I now have made new friends and share in a whole community of stroke survivors both online and most importantly face to face and look forward to my fortnightly catch ups with the rest of the group. I now strive to give something back to help those less fortunate than me after their stroke and became Secretary of Stroke Survivors Southampton in June 2015.
Jo Elliott
Secretary, Different Strokes Southampton
Six O'clock was the time,
August two thousand and nine.
It had been such a hot day,
I'd worked my heart and bones away,
I came to jump in the shower,
But I'd lost the will and the power,
Struggle I did but just then I slid.
Alone on the floor, it felt not like me anymore.
The NHS I gave a rang, they said, get here as soon as you can,
Straight onto a bed, pins and needles I said,
Led there I did, as they tested every bit,
A CT Scan was next, was I frightened? You bet!
Back to a ward I went,
Soaked with sweat, I felt so drenched.
Alone again, on my bed,
A doctor came walking over, a TIA! he exclaimed and said,
Away he went, leaving me to understand what he had meant.
Another Dr came in, and noticed that I had been tearfully crying,
She looked at my notes, her arm went around me like a warm coat,
She told me I would be ok,
Rest up and a Consultant would be on her way.
Led there looking up, I said I'm too young just to give up.
The morning came about, the nurses awoke me with a shout!
"You're seeing the consultant today,"
Yet I was still feeling lost in so many ways.
The Dr's and consultant came alongside,
The tears of pain I was trying to hide,
She told me that I'd had a mini stroke, but major enough, and wasn't to be taken as a joke,
A diet of healthy food was to be now on the menu...
And no more smoking is for you!
They carried out some tests, then I was told I could go home and take some rest.
Back home now am I, asking that question, Why?
I found a stroke group online,
They gave me back the strength I had, before that awful time.
Now over five years on, and I'm feeling mighty strong,
and a group that I help get started now runs,
for other Strokies and their loved ones.
I've learnt that with every small step, a Giant leap soon follows,
after many storms comes colourful Rainbows.
Andy Clay
Chairman, Different Strokes Southampton
I had my stroke in September 2009. It was a subarachnoid haemorrhage, therefore it wasn't a traditional clot, but rather a bleed.
I actually had my stroke while walking around in John Lewis on a Sunday afternoon. When it happened I thought I had been hit at the back of the head with a golf club or something similar. I touched the back of my neck to see if it was bleeding only to discover that there was no blood at all, and that I had not been struck by anyone??
This made me very frightened as I did not know what was happening to me. Instinctively I started walking to my car and tried to drive home. As I drove the pain worsened dramatically and my arms and neck started to freeze. I could not move properly.
I was rushed to hospital where I bypassed triage and was sent directly for a scan. The scan revealed the bleed. I was then admitted to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at Southampton General Hospital. This was an extremely scary time for me as I had never suffered anything like this in the past, and as far as I was aware, strokes happened to old people.
I was 39 years of age at the time.
 
Whilst in the NICU, I was constantly examined and monitored. During this time, most of the feeling and senses came back, but the pain continued to be excruciating. I was given multiple and many pain killers.
After some time, and whilst I had my very close friends with me, I overheard a friend having a conversation with my consultant. It went something like this:
"How serious are things? Is it as bad as a heart attack?", said my friend.
"Heart attack??? A heart attack is a walk in the park compared to what he has had..." When I heard this I broke down. The seriousness of what had happened had finally hit home. I was devasted.
 
I left hospital after spending time in 2 other units/wards, and I will never forget the words of the consultant:
"You have two choices my friend, either carry on living the way you are and when you come back you will not be leaving here or you will be leaving here but in a lot worse condition...OR...learn from this and make some changes - you have been given a second chance".
 
This was the beginning. I was lucky enough to have the skills to manage my own rehabilitation. Working with my GP, a neurologist and a health trainer, I constructed a mini project plan. Whilst going through my rehab, my mind thought about others in my position. I couldn't be the only 39 year old that has suffered a stroke, right? That's when I was put in touch with Different Strokes. I had a call with Lorraine Ayres and decided to go along to a meeting in Southampton. I remember feeling extremely nervous, but then met Andy Clay. We hit it off immediately and started the group meetings. I can safely say that my life is 'richer' with my new 'bestie' Andy and the group that we all run in Southampton.
 
I got very interested in Different Strokes as an organistion and was asked to interview for a trustee role on the board. I am now vice chair of the board of trustees of DS.
 
Ranj Parmar
Treasurer, Different Strokes Southampton