A TREDEGAR man who spent Christmas in a hospital bed last year has thrown his support behind a campaign supporting the charity which helped nurse him back to health.
Garry Rees suffered a stroke last December, and ended up spending the festive period in hospital.
Twelve months on, he is backing the Stroke Association’s Hope After Stroke Christmas appeal.
“It was a really difficult time for me and my family, we had all these plans but none of them could happen,” he said. “It’s just the simple things you miss that you do every year. I felt really guilty for ruining their Christmas.”
The 55-year-old computer engineer was left unable to write, type or use tools, but says the Stroke Association’s support gave him the hope he needed.
“Before I had a stroke I had a very active lifestyle, I was running, swimming and cycling every week but then I couldn’t physically do anything which really has got me down,” he said.
“My stroke left me with right-sided weakness. My family were amazing, looking after me, helping me learn the things I needed to get me back to some resemblance of normality.
“I went back to my childhood, with Lego, Meccano and jigsaw puzzles. All helped me with my dexterity, and each thing I built, gave me a great sense of satisfaction and were the glimmer of hope I needed at the beginning of my recovery.”
The Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on Mr Rees and halted his rehabilitation as the country went into lockdown only three months after his stroke.
He said, “When we went into lockdown, I spiralled into a depression, I didn’t realise what it was. The stroke gave me heightened emotions where I get very angry or burst into tears and sob like a child. But I had no control over it. This was so alien to me as I didn’t know what was causing it or how to stop it.”
He has now joined a number of virtual zoom groups including the long-running Blackwood Stroke Group.
“I haven’t looked back, there are so many great characters in the group which has a lovely family feel to it. They know how I feel as they have been there too and that’s what makes the difference,” he said.
Mr Rees is asking people to make a donation to the Stroke Association’s work supporting survivors and their families, as they rebuild their lives this Christmas.
Katie Chappelle, associate director for Wales at the Stroke Association said: “When someone’s life has been shattered by stroke, they may feel all hope is gone. But we also know that stroke survivors cling onto even the smallest glimmer of hope.”
“This pandemic has had a serious impact on our ability to raise funds through our usual community events and activities.
“Many people in our support services have praised the support they received from the Stroke Association, to build on that first glimmer of hope so that they could rebuild their lives after stroke. Hope might be found in a call to our Helpline; through the friendship and support of our online community; or the ongoing support of our Stroke Association Support Coordinators. Rebuilding lives is impossible without hope.”
To donate or for more information about stroke and the vital role that hope plays in stroke recovery and rebuilding lives, please visit stroke.org.uk/hope