“I awoke paralysed and struggling to speak”: how stroke changed my life

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Stroke campaigner Eric Sinclair on the night that changed everything

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28th March 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

On 17 July 2004 I fell asleep in an Oslo hotel, hale and hearty.  

I was visiting my son, Iain, who was working as a greenkeeper at a golf course there. We’d planned a round of golf next day, so before sleeping I tried to prepare myself mentally for what this meant. As a hopeless golfer, I faced certain defeat by my son.

The golf never took place.

On 18 July 2004 I awoke to find myself paralysed and struggling to speak. During the night I had suffered a major stroke.

Eris Sinclair

Eris Sinclair

The Stroke Association has offered me the chance to contribute in a small way to a charity that really is making a difference

I was about to spend four months in hospital in Oslo, then Aberdeen. For my wife and for me, this would be followed by years of struggling to return to some kind of normality. You can prepare mentally for bad golf, but there’s nothing you can do to prepare for a sudden event like that.

When I fell ill, I knew nothing about the medical emergency that is stroke and the devastating consequences it can bring – some of which are much worse than anything I have suffered.

After I had spent three or four angry years battling black moods and struggling to recover physically, I resolved to do two things – one, to write about my experience; two, to offer any help I could to stroke charities.

These decisions coincided with the Scottish Government’s consultation on its strategy for heart disease and stroke in 2009. It was through that process that I became aware of the work of the Stroke Association in Scotland.

I decided to approach them to see if my skills and experience might help them in their work and was delighted to be given the opportunity to immerse myself in their activities and put my skills to use.

I started helping to raise public awareness as a media case study for the press. I became a member of the Scottish reference group and am now vice chair, ensuring issues are raised and discussed by group members to inform the activities of the charity.  I have a personal interest in campaigning and was able to take many of the issues raised by reference group members to my local politicians.

This has resulted in stroke being mentioned in parliamentary business. It is good to have stroke on the agenda in The Scottish Parliament.

On Deeside where I live, I helped to set up a Stroke Association exercise group that plugs a major gap in local health and social care services for stroke patients leaving hospital. 

People get to meet others, share experiences and benefit physically from the exercise classes. It’s great to be part of something that brings real benefits to people. I have encouraged the group to get involved in PR and fundraising activities so that everyone feels they have a stake in the group.

I like the fact that the Stroke Association is a UK-wide organisation. That said, over the last few years they have considerably expanded their activities in Scotland.

They produce accessible information about stroke; they support a wide range of research; they have introduced a superb, free on-line resource for people affected by stroke – My Stroke Guide; they have developed a strong partnership with Speakability which has several groups across Scotland; they work with trained volunteers to offer blood pressure checks; above all, they actively involve people affected by stroke in their work.

On a personal level, involvement with the Stroke Association has offered me the chance to contribute in a small way to a charity that really is making a difference every day to the lives of people affected by stroke.

To me that is worth far more than any round of bad golf.

Eric Sinclair is a Stroke Association volunteer, a non-executive director on the board of NHS Grampian and a member of the Aberdeenshire IJB. You can read his blog here.