Getting back to driving

Driving gives the stroke survivor so much: confidence, independence, self respect. Recently, several members have regained their licenses. Here’s how they did it and the aftermath.

10-driving Click here to read the original article


Skiing in Kenya

Come and stroke my tummy

It was the picture that did it. K. and I had decided that we must get away, to break the dreadful circle and mood that threatened to engulf us after a truly annus horribilis. In the crook of a tree, there lay a cat. With closed eyes and that satisfied look that indicated a full stomach, enough warmth, and not a care in the world. I decided that I wanted to stoke that cat, and pounced on the website shown in the advert.

Previously, we had discussed where we could go in January. Spain was in budget, but there is no guarantee of sunshine. Thailand has the sun – but out of budget, and out of Europe (for the travel insurance) and the flying time was too much. So where? Well, that damned cat, sorry lioness, decided it for us. Oblivious to the conscience screaming that Kenya is out of Europe, a ten hour flight, and definitely out of budget, we negotiated with ourselves and the bank balance. We robbed Peter and Paul. The people on the phone were so helpful. At five thirty one Saturday we had booked; and by the following Saturday the plane took off at six thirty. The intervening seven days were electric.

Monday morning saw frantic activity. I must have made three or four phone calls to get travel insurance. My GP’s surgery could not offer jabs quickly enough, so we went to a travel clinic in the Secret Garden and got some jabs and exemption certificates for others, plus the malaria tablets. We then started the quest for clothing for the tropics. Nowhere in Ashford and around could we buy cotton – in January. No surprise there then. Same problem with footwear, and sprays against mosquitoes (which we eventually found at the travel clinic place).

The holiday was far more than we  could have hoped for. We sunbathed, swam, and above all we relaxed.

We watched the monkeys that came for tea an hour before dusk every night.

The monkey who came for tea and stole the sugar

We went on safari too. We flew to a lodge which is close to Mount Kilimanjaro and stayed a night. The landing strip was primitive. Just two logs: arrivals and departures.

A bush runway near Kilimanjaro

They hire the local Masai warriors as guards who had to clear the strip of cattle as we landed, and a family of baboons as we left.

Massai warriors who keep the runway clear

We were close to a sanctuary owned by the tour operators, who kept out the main predators. So the only lions that we saw were three orphans. Their mother had been killed after she took a Masai cow. The photograph is of the male eating his evening meal – goat prepared by the keepers.

We had three game drives in the sanctuary, and got a real flavour of the bush. I would have liked a safari on a game reserve, but had been advised that against it.

The men and women from Kenya could not have been more welcoming and helpful. They even organised one of the poolside attendants to help steady me as I got into and out of the pool.

The first swim for years

The crew of the inland flight help me board.

Help up the steps

Back on the coast, we had a trip on the Indian Ocean watching Dolphins.

Help negotiating the steps on & off the boat

The crew of the boat help me board for a memorable trip on the ocean.

The locals could nopt have been more helpful

Would we go again – yes! – we are already planning where…

Gatwick airport was a nightmare. I had booked “wheelchair assistance”. Last summer at Heathrow, there was a desk just inside the door and I was shepherded around in a chair with no trouble. But at Gatwick there was no desk. In fact, the departure hall starts about 400 yards away from the kerbside along a moving belt. And the queues for check-in! At the desk, I asked about the wheelchair. “Oh you’ll find that at the reception desk just inside the departure lounge” which was after the security search (queue; “Take your shoes off please sir”), and after the passport line. In fact, we waived our tickets and jumped the queues (I can’t stand for very long), and although all the people on duty were kind and considerate, it had been a real ordeal getting from the kerb to the desk in the departure lounge. There, we registered and sat ourselves down for the cart that was to take us to the gate. While waiting, we noticed that other people arrived already on a cart. They had been picked up at the kerb. So we asked the cart drivers what was the deal. It seems that there are two ground handling companies working at Gatwick. One always picks up passengers from the kerb, and we were told that there is a phone just inside the entrance that can be used to whistle up the chariot. The second company are too cheap to offer that service, and only transfer passengers from the lounge to the gate. The airline that we traveled with had their contract with the cheap one – hence the need to walk and queue for about forty minutes.

Curiously, at Mombasa airport, there was no problem; neither arriving nor departing even though three large airliners arrived and left within 15 minutes with close to a thousand passengers. Well, not exactly no problem as I was in the chair which was being used by my “driver” as a battering ram to move people aside to let us through. The way he used the chair as a weapon, and the pitying looks I received had me very close to tears several times.

Skiing? – Spend the Kids Inheritance

When the carer gets ill

True to my philosophy of  “humour above all”, my up-beat Christmas letter included:

“And yes, we will have freshly brewed coffee. You see, K. is unwell. She got a cold about 6 weeks ago which went onto her chest, and she had bronchitis for the first time ever. After looking after me for 18 months, with all that stress and worry, she must have been very low because this innocuous illness has knocked her down completely. It has out lasted two courses of strong antibiotics, then moved into her sinus – the usual place for her. It almost went, but has returned and she is now on her fourth set of tablets. So I am on kitchen duty. Everyone K. tells that “He is doing all the cooking” is singularly unsympathetic. Remarks like “Make the most of it”, and “It’ll do him good” I find quite subversive. I think she should get a new, more reliable set of friends. As regards the coffee, my view is that if I am to make the effort to provide warm drinks, then why not grind the beans and do the job properly. The amount of effort is not that much different. Climbing the stairs without spilling the drink is far more important.”

The truth is more prosaic. It’s hard for a carer to let go and sit still, to stay in the warm. Maybe she felt ineffective, or guilty or helpless as she watched my struggles. We started bickering about mundane things, like shopping, what to eat etc. Worse, K. found it almost impossible to clear her chest, and her coughing became persistent and painful. Almost every morning we awoke to a bed drenched with her night perspiration. Eventually K. agreed to a regime that saw her in bed much of the time, and absolutely banned from even talking about going out of doors, but not without a struggle! Not a day passed without a crossed word.

I spoke with the nurse. “Feed a cold, starve a fever – what should I do?”. “Stay in the warm, and plenty of fluid, soups and hot drinks” was the reply. My attempt to fatten her up had been misguided. I now felt flatter, as did K. who was once again confined to the house – this time with a nurse’s say so.

And Christmas? Arthur, now house bound, wanted us to visit him. But his house was always so cold that K. had put her foot down “Never again in the winter!”. How to tell him became a non issue. The phone rang with the unexpected news that he had died in his sleep, the cremation would be in the New Year. He was my mentor; my son’s Godfather; my only true confidant; the only man who was my true friend for forty two years. I was devastated and broke down. After the eulogy, his brother said “She took it rather badly” pointing to Arthur’s Indian next door neighbour, and alluding to her sobs. As I confessed that it had been me, his eyebrows rose. How low we have both become. The winter skies, the perpetual cough, the daily struggle to cook and clear up after, and now this. Somehow we have to break this mood, but how?

Then we saw an advert in the weekend paper that promised sun and blue skies. It was supported by the picture of a cat, fast asleep in the crook of a tree with that daft well fed look that cat lovers know and recognise. We were captivated, energised, and burst into activity. We had booked the trip by 5:30pm one Saturday, and were on the plane at 6:30pm the next. We are going SKIING!

Right Handed Biscuits

I’ve got one of those bossy sons; “You ought to do this, or that”, “Have you ever thought of…” – you get the picture. My wife, who is foreign (no connection with the bossiness), had to return home to a family funeral, and my son and family settled into our home for the few days that she was away.

Every thing was fine, except for three things. Firstly, he had to modify completely his projected programme. Apart from himself being very tired because of his job, he soon dropped the day that started “visit zoo, lunch, visit steam train” as he saw my pace at eating, dressing etc. The second thing took me back a bit, as he baulked and ran when I asked for help in the shower. I hadn’t taken him for a prude after his university friend had told of finding him in the middle of a game of strip poker with two female students, a game that he was about to lose – on purpose, obviously, well I mean, things like that stick out don’t they?

However, the third thing has become part of the family law. He arrived at my bedside the first morning with a cup of tea, so thoughtful. And a “Right handed biscuit”. “What’s a right handed biscuit?” I grunted. “You only get tea in bed provided you promise to eat the biscuit with the right hand”. Nasty unfeeling brute. Worse was to come. When K. returned home, she keenly continued the new regime and applied it to all biscuits and cakes. I may have lost weight.

I’m reluctant to share the next bit, mainly because I know that the two of them will read these notes. My right arm has become stronger and has a little more control. So much so that six months after this ordeal/regime began, I was photographed at a wedding with a glass of champagne in my hand. My right hand. It was the first time that I have lifted a full glass or cup to my lips without expecting to pour some down my front. But in a way, I was bullied into that as well, as it was outside and my strong hand was helping me maintain balance by holding my posh ‘going out’ stick. So I had to drink the toast with my reluctant hand.


Has it really taken me six months to go from biscuit to glass? I think that my early despair may have been deeper if I’d known that. Will it take another six months before I can trust the hand to give me, say, the second glass of my favourite tipple (that I’ve paid for and therefore begrudge spilling)? And when can I begin the journey towards shaving?

So, it looks as though he was right to bully me. But that still doesn’t mean that I’m putting him back in the will!

Try Singing – boost your rehab!

I don’t mind admitting that the first night after my stroke, I cried and cried, and kept the rest of the ward awake. My right side had gone, and with it any chance of continuing my music. I played French Horn, every thing in the brass band except trombone, and piano accordion. I’d played with the Midland Youth Orchestra, and with my brother had won a European wide contest on the accordions for duetists. So I hope you can judge that music was/is important. That was March 2005.

I’m bloody minded, and gave the occupational therapists a run for their money. I totally refused /blanked out any attempt to get me to the keyboard. Music making has gone, dead and buried, and I had already grieved my loss, my friend.

Then, Kaarina my wife suggested that we could go to church and I could sing there. I have an intellectual problem with joining a church choir. The music’s OK, but going to church is about belief – not music making, and I continued my opposition. But it set me thinking, and while visiting St. Mary’s for a concert, I asked friends about choirs where I live. The answers didn’t seem too promising, as one did not tackle the repertoire that interested me, while the other sounded too stuck up to accept a half body with no stamina and no voice.

singing at saga

Well, I was wrong. In October, K. found the details of a choral society, and I phoned up the secretary. “Come along – you’ll be most welcome”. Tuesday evening, I was pushed in and met the conductor. “I don’t want to sing in the concerts, nor embarrass you, but can I sit in?”. I explained that as a horn player, I could hear the notes in my head, and hold a line. (Horn players can all do this. It’s impossible to play the horn unless you can hear the note first, unlike the pianist who can just plonk a note down and it’s always in tune).

HAVE to share with fellow sufferers the benefits of singing. Forget my rather purist musical spin on things. Instead just think of what the body has to do. And never mind the order, all of these effects are important:

  • ·Getting out of the house. Every Tuesday evening, rain wind or just cold, we went and climbed 3 stairs, and fought a very small lift, and the uneven pavements, and went down the stairs backwards – using both legs and a wheel chair
  • ·Sitting up. You can’t sing with a bent back, or scrunched up stomach. You have to sit erect; using the muscles on both sides of the back and neck
  • ·Deep breathing. To make the voice work, you have to take deep breaths, and make the diaphragm squeeze – both sides
  • ·Being a music stand. The music that we sang came in a book. So I had to make my right hand support the book, specially when turning over the pages. This gave work to my shoulder, both parts of the arm, the wrist and fingers. Of all the effort, this was and remains the greatest and most painful.
  • ·Diction. Yes, my mouth had gone on one side, so getting the lyrics out is a new ball game. Not only must you say the words, but they have to be in time to the music and everyone else.
  • ·Laughing and meeting people. It is impossible to overstate the importance of getting out and meeting people.

So you fellow sufferers, whether you sing a rousing chorus of Eskimo Nell, or whatever your kids are dancing to, or a Sinatra number at the local’s Kareoki night, try to get up and out, and sing. It will do you so much good. The first rehearsal, I could only survive until the mid break. 6 Months later, I took part in my first concert, which involved a 2 and a half hour rehearsal, followed by the concert of 2 hours that evening. Yup, I was dead for the next two or three days, but it sure beats sitting at home trying to decide what to watch on the oggle box.

David Worsley

May 2006

A Very important book!

A Stroke in the Family by Valerie Eaton Griffith

To help patients regain language after a stroke, Val Eaton Griffith, as part of a teaching team, developed exercises and games to stimulate the brain.
She famously aided Patricia Neal, the celebrated Academy award winning Hollywood actress and wife of author Roald Dahl make a recovery from a series of massive strokes. So successful and celebrated were her techniques that Val, using her real-life experiences with Patricia and others, was encouraged to produce this simple manual to aid friends and family of stroke patients everywhere. For her work, she was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list of 1977.

We discovered that this book – which has so much to offer every stroke patient – was out of print. We contected the author, and she agreed to let us bring the book into publication.

We are delighted by the response of local professionals when they discovered that we are reprinting this book.

A Mile of Strokes

A Mile of Smiles
A Mile of Smiles

24th September at Kingsmead Leisure Centre
(7:00 to 9:20am and after 2:30pm)

Two members of staff have volunteered to swim a mile and to gain sponsorship from friends and relatives. Members of East Kent Strokes group will also swim both alongside and in their own local pools in the days on either side this swimming event.

We Need Volunteers

If you or a friend can swim a few lengths, then please register. Your swim can be at your local pool where you are familiar with the facilities and staff, or at a public session at the Kingsmead Leisure Centre in Canterbury.

It can be the full mile, or half, or even just a length – whatever is within your capacity

It can be on the 24th September, or during the week before or after.

If you swim regularly, then register with Geraldine and get sponsored

It you don’t swim regularly, then register with Geraldine and get sponsored – then start swimming!

How to Register

Phone or email Geraldine Wyant: Tel. 01227 721 319; Email on

You will receive a small pack containing the Sainsbury’s Sponsorship form and a leaflet of simple guidelines


Please help a local charity, where all donations are used to improve the lifes of local stroke survivors.

Contact Geraldine who will be pleased to help.

The AGM 2009

Another Happy AGM

For the second year running, attendees of the annual general meeting were entertained by a guest speaker who had laughter ringing out.
Dr Martin Stephen is High Master of St.Paul’s School in London. He is author of fifteen books on English literature and naval history as well as four novels featuring his seventeenth-century hero Henry Gresham.
Author of A Diary of a Stroke, he reprised his story, re-living many of the episodes that he, his wife and children experienced, including describing the exercise regimes one of which had him walking up and down the stripes on his lawn. An inspiring man who held our attention.
The business part of the meeting brought one surprise. John Manley, a founder member of the group Hon. treasurer and organiser of our Christmas dinner – among other things – announced that he must stand down. Currently going through a personal health crisis, John was deeply sad to surrender his duties, but indicated his wish to remain one of the trustees. All present gave him rousing applause and many wishes for his future good health.

Chairman’s Report, AGM 2009

Mayday becomes May’s Lucky Day

May Lacey had a stroke  onboard a cross Channel ferry. Two hours later, the effects were being reversed and she walked out of the hospital just six days later.

There are two stories here: the speedy response to a medical emergency; and her astonishing recovery. That the emergency services managed the quick response is hardly a story at all – had they not then that might have been a story. Still, the men and women who made it happen deserve their applause.

The real story is thrombolysis and its adoption by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust. Why is this not available in every A&E department in Britain? It is surely a no-brainer. Look at what it will save: the occupied beds; the costs; the human suffering of victim, carer and family.

newsletter-141 This astonishing story is re-printed from Stroke Watch No.14 which is shown in full under Newsletter.

14-mayday-hd The high definition file, 3.9 MB