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KeithH's Story


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My Name is Keith Henman. Born on the 6th of August 1958. I'm married to Lesley with a thirteen (going on twenty) year old daughter called Zoe. Now living in Holme-Upon-Spalding-Moor, East Yorkshire.

The Day Of My Stroke

It was Monday 23rd March 1998 about 1930 hrs. I was just about to bath my daughter when I felt a little strange, then all of a sudden I couldn’t move my left side, so after managing to drag myself to the bedroom, I phoned for the ambulance myself.

I called out for my daughter, (she was 3½ then) and by the tone of my voice she sensed there was something wrong. My wife was out that night with the girls.

So there I was, stuck on the bed, waiting and wondering what had happened. About the same time as the ambulance arrived, my wife returned. It felt like ages before they arrived, but now I know it was only about 10-15 minutes. So there I was strapped to a board (lucky I wasn’t carrying myself) being lowered down the stairs, and off to hospital - the Gloucester Royal - within a few minutes. In a very short space of time we had to arrange a child minder, and for someone to come with my wife to the hospital. I was being pushed and pulled by anybody who came past, and after about an hour, somebody said I could go home and come back in the morning. It was then that my wife (not very politely) asked if anybody thought it was a bit odd that someone who came in partially paralysed should be sent home, and told to come back tomorrow. In the comments that passed over the next few minutes, a young doctor intervened, asking what’s going on. It didn’t take long for this doctor to realise that further investigations needed to be carried out.

Then it was a quick trip from Gloucester to Bristol. I had suffered a massive bleed. I was in Frenchay hospital, miles from home and my wife and her friend were now driving down the motorway. I won't go into detail about what happened in the next week, I can’t remember much anyway. Then it was back to Gloucester Royal for what turned out to be 15½ weeks; a very long time for anybody. In that time my wife only missed four days visiting. It was hard for her, and for my daughter too.

After My Stroke

Home Now! After a spell of 16 weeks in hospital I was discharged, then the fun really started. At the time it was my goal to get home before my 40th Birthday, yes, I did it. Had a party; family and friends came from all over. They all sat there goggling at me, fussing & driving me nuts! “Will someone get drunk, it's my party” My sister lead the way. What a Girl!

I managed to keep going to physio and OT up until November 1998. Visiting my doctor for a follow up from the hospital, I ask for information about Stroke & Epilepsy and was told there was very little about these subjects in this area. He stated: “Your not going to be able to work for the foreseeable future, so why don't you start something yourself?” Very helpful, I thought, but not the sort of support I anticipated. I said "thank you for your support", or was it something different? I cant remember, and I changed my GP. In the same week I found that my job could no longer be guaranteed. This in turn caused a slightly larger problem. My accommodation came with the job, so as you might imagine, this put me on a low, wondering what to do now.

After more than 20 years, I had to change my whole outlook on life. Frustration set in, because now I was unable to do the every day things that used to come naturally. You know, silly things like washing, dressing, getting up to answer the door, taking my daughter for walks ... I'm going to stop this paragraph before I wind my self up. Yes, it still hurts. So we packed our bags and moved to Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, where after only a few weeks I was put onto a Family Stroke Support Worker. The first few visits felt strange, but after a while I saw what she was trying to make me ask for. That was ... HELP.

At first, I pushed the offer away, in fact I pushed too many people away including family & friends. I was not coping. I just wanted to be alone. I knew I wasn't the only one who had survived a stroke, but I wanted to know WHY ME?

One day my support worker gave me a good kick up the bum. It was what I needed: Right, this is it, come on, you're stronger than this. Buck your ideas up. Next morning: new day, new start. I was to make contact with a group called DUET, which alas closed it's doors late in 2000. DUET was there to help anybody with a disability build up their confidence and get them back on track, offering empathy & advocacy. After completing the courses available, I stayed on as a volunteer to help others.

Since attending the DUET courses I've moved on to assisting in the tuition of computer training with disabled people and people with learning difficulties; something I wouldn't have even thought of a few years ago.

I was also introduced to a Stroke Club. Now that was a good move, just knowing your not alone helps. I'm Secretary of one Club and helped set up 4 more in the area. I would strongly advise any stroke survivors and their carers to access such groups. At first I was very hesitant as my confidence was at an all time low as I walked through the doors, not knowing what to expect. There was no need to worry as I received a warm friendly welcome, and there were friends I had already met at Duet, in fact it was one of them that suggested I came along.

The groups are run entirely by local stroke survivors and carers and are regularly consulted by service providers and other agencies on the planning, monitoring and further development of whole stroke services. We campaign for better stroke services and also provide information and support to people who have had a stroke, and their carers. Further information can be obtained by visiting www.strokesurvivors.co.uk We offer empathy, understanding, friendship and a friendly ear to Stroke Survivors, Carers & Family Members. The aim being to help strokesurvivors’ and carers’ to improve their conditions and quality of life.

This is something I never imagined or thought I would be able to achieve in the early stages of my recovery, but with lots of help and determination I have succeeded. Surviving each and everyday is an achievement in itself for anyone living with a disability. Silly things what we all take for granted: washing, walking, communicating, reading, household chores, the list is be endless. Maybe the term adapting would be more beneficial. Yes it takes a lot longer than it did before, but with a little perseverance, everyday tasks can be achieved. Maybe not to the standard it used to be, but enough to make the difference and not having to depend on too many other people.

As stated before, I'm involved with Stroke Clubs & Support in the area I live. Something I really enjoy doing. Knowing I've helped someone, makes all the time I put into my voluntary work worth it. My disability has made me stronger, more determined, and I want let people walk over me.

I didn't set a goal to have the longest introduction on this site. After reading and talking/chatting to many of the members of this excellent on-line family. I knew that if I could write as much down as I could, the highs and lows, and if people read it, then they might see themselves in here; see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Some tunnels are longer than others. So just take your time, don't rush, and you will get there.

Keith Henman

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