‘I didn’t know anyone, I couldn’t speak’: Stroke survivor shares his incredible journey to recovery with Cambridge Stroke Group
‘It makes you realise you’re not the only one’
When we face hardships in life it’s a natural response to look for support.
Support groups can be an amazing way to rebuild your life, surrounded by people who have an understanding of your struggles.
That’s exactly what happens at the Cambridge Stroke Group.
Formed by the amalgamation of Different Strokes, Cambridge and The Stroke Association, the Cambridge Stroke Group is there to support anyone, of any age, who has had a stroke of similar injury in Cambridgeshire.
The group meets on a weekly basis at the Scottsdale Garden Centre’s David Rayner Centre in Great Shelford to provide a meeting place in a friendly and caring environment, and to support members, helping with their recovery by gaining independence, making new friends and experiencing new activities.
One of its volunteers is 60-year-old Nigel Poulter, who had a stroke nine years ago, at just 51 years old.
Recalling the day of his stroke, Nigel said: “About nine years ago, just after Christmas, I fell off my chair and I couldn’t get up.
“I was in my study, it was about two days after Christmas so everyone was here, I should have been with them but I was working.
“They had to leave me on the floor until the ambulance arrived, and then they managed to get me out.”
From there, Nigel was rushed to Addenbrooke’s, on the way he remembers he was talking to the paramedics, “I thought I was making sense, and obviously I wasn’t.
“From about an hour and a half later, I then don’t remember anything until about two or three weeks.
“Then I came round and to start with I thought I’d gone to heaven because there were all these people, I didn’t know anyone, I couldn’t speak.
“It was frightening at the time, but because I’m an optimist I really don’t remember ever being depressed about it, so that helps no end.
“I think if you can stay positive then you’re going to get better. I was in hospital for 17 weeks, by then I could just about walk.
“I did walk out of the hospital, it took quite a while but I was determined I was going to do that, so that’s what I did.”
Later, Nigel came across the Cambridge Stroke Group, which he said “makes you realise you’re not the only one, so that’s a really important part.”
Now, Nigel makes the journey from his home in Over to the stroke ward in Addenbrooke’s on his mobility scooter on a weekly basis to talk to patients about the group and the support they can offer.
“I have to have a purpose,” explains Nigel, “I feel that it’s a good way of me putting something back.
“I’ve always been that type of person any way, I’m always positive and I was very much into Scouting.
“When I had the stroke I couldn’t really do cubs any more so now I’m county treasurer. I’ve only got the one hand that works, but I’m a chartered accountant and therefore I can do bits and pieces, it takes longer now but I can do them.
“It’s a matter of looking at it and saying, I can’t do that but I can do something else instead, even within the same organisation.”
As Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Clinical Commissioning Group work to tighten their belt and fill funding gaps, the stroke group have been told that things may not continue for them as they have.
Currently, the group have access to Helen Long from the Stroke Association, and help toward funding clubs and activities, however Nigel explained that come January or February things look likely to change.
However, he is determined to keep the group going, saying: “I’m determined to make sure it does keep going and that’s probably part of the reason I shall carry on going into the wards and say come along.
“To me, they should come once or twice, from there you can then say if it’s not for you, that’s fine, but that’s one of the things I want to continue for that reason.”
Nigel also said: “Now I’m at a stage where I shall carry on.
“I’ve suddenly found a voice, as it were, and I think my voice is stronger. I don’t hang on before I say anything now, I will chip in straight away, whereas before I would play it safe.
“I look at it and say OK I had the stroke, but it’s also made me a better person in some respects.”
He went on to say: “It’s done me a power of good going to the stroke group.”
Elaborating he said: “I thought a stroke was a stroke, and now I know there’s so many different versions and no one is ever the same.
“So I might have a situation where I have a side effect and someone else might have it but they’ve got a different secondary problem I haven’t got.”
Reflecting back, Nigel explained how he feels he knows the cause of his stroke – putting it down to excess stress, a busy schedule and lots of travelling, his words “everyone thinks they’re invincible”.
But Nigel is keeping his eternal optimism, saying: “Although it took me a while, I’m independent now.
“I’ve worked out what I can do and what I can’t, and gradually it’s still improving after nine years. It doesn’t come overnight, you have to keep working at it.”