Stroke survivor Mick Spence from Melksham, Wiltshire returned from the brink of despair to save others from the hole which nearly consumed him.
Today (Wednesday 10 November 2010) Mick Spence (pictured) and The Stroke Association will launch a new scheme to bring stroke survivors together to offer peer support and gain new skills – such as photography, cooking and using computers.
Mick, 41, had three strokes in November 2008 which left him very confused and unable to control one side of his body, but these were undiagnosed as strokes until six months later. He was unable to work, cook or even watch the TV so he sat on his own in a dark room whilst his wife went to work each day.
Mick, who used to play rugby for England’s under 21s, served in the army for eight years and then worked as a sales consultant in a shop, said: “Until my stroke I worked every day of my life and enjoyed going out with the lads on a Friday. It was devastating to lose my job and humiliating to find that the wrong words came out when I tried to speak. I was even scared to leave the house because I kept having seizures and I felt people were staring at my difficulties in walking down the street. It was hopeless.”
With the help of Bev Pace (pictured) – one of The Stroke Association’s co-ordinators, who is funded by Wiltshire Council to provide support to people who have had a stroke – Mick has managed to overcome some of his disabilities and achieve personal goals such as going to a café or getting on a bus. He also learnt to write notes for himself to remind him how to do routine tasks like brushing his teeth and has received additional rehabilitation support.
He has now signed up to a twelve week course in counselling to help him support others who have experienced brain injuries because he knows so much about what they are going through and hopes this will provide him with a new career in the long-term.
Mick explained: “When you have a stroke you need someone who will understand the difficulties that you face. The Stroke Association has been my scaffolding. My occupational therapist and physiotherapist have helped with specific difficulties but Bev is incredibly important to me and my family in rebuilding my life because she holds everything up.”
1,020 people in Wiltshire will have a stroke each year – that’s between two and three every day and around 480 will die from one. The Department of Health estimates that around 9,274 people in Wiltshire are living with the effects of stroke in Wiltshire today.
As part of Mick’s rehabilitation scheme, Bev has encouraged him to volunteer with The Stroke Association in Devizes and help her bring people who have had a stroke together to share experiences and offer them more support. So far 36 people have signed up to help with the scheme.
Bev Pace, The Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke coordinator explained: “Stroke can have such a major effect on the person who has been affected as well as the people around them. It often means you are reliant on others which can sap your energy and independence.
“Many of our clients have a strong desire to get back to some of their old hobbies and learn new skills and we’re really keen to support them in doing so. So far, Mick has sent a survey to 50 people in central Wiltshire who have had a stroke to find out what activities they would like to do and the help they would need to achieve these. We have had a good response with help getting out and about socially, computer skills and water colour painting being the favourites. People also said they would like to help as volunteers which is really exciting.”
“The Royal British Legion has also stepped in by funding Mick’s office equipment which includes a desk, chair, computer and voice recognition software so he can take on more of the work at home himself. By bringing people affected by stroke together we believe we can be really effective in improving people’s lives in Wiltshire which is hugely important.
“We would love to hear from anyone who would like to find out more about taking part in these activities or any of the other support services we offer people affected by stroke in Wiltshire. Please call me on 01380 724 835 or email email@example.com ”