Charity warns strokes in younger people are on the increase
- Credit: Archant
A mother-of-two who lost her ability to talk and walk after a stroke has praised the work done by a charity which is trying to make men and women in their 40s and 50s more aware of the risks they run.
Sue Kirkby collapsed at home with a subarachnoid haemorrhage which resulted in a devastating stroke in January 2008.
The stroke left Sue with severe disabilities and meant she was unable to work.
“The day I had my stroke was the most frightening day of my life,” said the 45-year-old, who has since made a good recovery.
“Before my stroke, I was in a full-time, busy job as an office manager.
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“I was the first one in work, the last one out, working long days, chasing my tail.
“I was a single mother-of-two trying to provide for my family, juggling work with home life – as most normal people do.
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“I was always fit and sporty at school and college and continued playing competitive sports until a few years before my stroke.”
Sue has been speaking about her experience as part of Action on Stroke Month, which runs throughout May.
According to the Stroke Association, 520 men aged 40 to 54 suffered strokes in the East of England in 2014 – that’s a 17 per cent increase compared to just eight years ago.
The number of women in the same age category suffering strokes last year totalled 409 – that’s a 13 per cent increase since 2006.
It is thought much of the rise is due to people leading increasingly unhealthy lifestyles and Stroke Association chief executive Jon Barrick is keen to get the message across.
He said: “These figures show stroke can no longer be seen as a disease of older people.
“There is an alarming increase in the number of people having a stroke in working age.
“This comes at a huge cost, not only to the individual, but also to their families and to health and social care services.
“We must do more to raise people’s awareness of risk factors, to help prevent them from having a stroke.
“We also need the right health and social care services available.”
Sue, who lives in Stevenage, began working for the Stroke Association in 2010 as a part-time office administrator, but now works virtually full-time for the charity.
“It was very tiring at first as I had woken parts of my brain that had laid dormant since my stroke,” she said.
“During those early days I had to manage my fatigue and went home most afternoons to sleep on the sofa.
“Now I am working for three co-ordinators over two services, and I am just embarking on a new role, meeting and reviewing patients six months post stroke.”
Sue was also keen to stress the important of emotional support, and has set up a support group for working age people called Target after finding a lack of resources for younger stroke survivors after her ordeal.
She added: “I gained so much from being able to chat to others – it was a form of therapy for me.
“Emotional support after a stroke is sometimes overlooked, but most survivors benefit from this and it was a crucial part of my recovery.
“The Stroke Association has changed my life and I am blessed to be able to give something back, and help other people through their own journeys.”
For more information about the charity’s work, visit www.stroke.org.uk or call 0303 303 3100.