A stroke survivor from Carmarthenshire has appeared on TV with EastEnders star Rudolph Walker to raise money for the charity which helped him rebuild his life.
In the BBC1 Lifeline fundraising appeal Dave Jones, from Tycroes, near Ammanford, said the support he had received from the Stroke Association had been “invaluable”.
The programme, which can be viewed on the BBC website, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000tq6d/lifeline-stroke-association is presented by the actor, whose character Patrick Trueman has had two strokes.
Dave was just 36, fit, healthy and working as a regional sales manager for Selwood Pumps when he had his stroke in 2017.
“I felt a small pop in the back of my neck and I put it down to a migraine,” said Dave.
“I woke up on the morning blind. I went down to A&E at Glangwili Hospital and they sent me for a CT scan. The nurse came over and said ‘You’ve had a brain haemorrhage, you could go into a coma. It was the scariest time of my life.”
Dave regained his sight but he struggled physically and his mental health also suffered over the coming months.
“I had double vision, my right arm didn’t work, my right leg didn’t work. I couldn’t speak properly. I got to the point of I didn’t want to be here. I actually got to the steps of ending it all.”
His life started to improve when the Stroke Association helped to arrange physiotherapy and communication therapy. He also joined a new support group for men going through similar experiences in his area, which was set up by Angela Hayes, the charity’s stroke recovery service co-coordinator for Carmarthenshire.
They wanted to have a bit of banter and to be able to chat to each other away from their family. The group started meeting monthly in a local pub, with around 15 members from Ammanford, Llanelli, Carmarthen and other communities across the county.
When Covid-19 hit, the group moved online with fortnightly zoom meetings. In the TV appeal, Dave is seen chatting online with his fellow survivors.
Dave said: “We would help each other through it and talk about our experience, it is a massive help to me.
“Speaking to other survivors, you feel there’s someone there. That you’re not alone. They’ve done it, so I can do it. I can get better. I don’t call it recovery I call it rebuilding. I still get symptoms today of aphasia and fatigue.
“My Stroke Association co-ordinator has been a huge help to me. She has been invaluable in my recovery. I would never have got to where I have without her.”
Dave is continuing to rebuild his life with his wife Susan, 38, daughter Steph, 17, and Arthur four.
“When I had my stroke I was told I would never work again but I’m planning to look for something suitable in another 18 months and prove them wrong,” said Dave.
Katie Chappelle, the Stroke Association’s associate director for Wales, said: “We’d like to say a huge thank you to Dave for sharing his stroke story in the BBC Lifeline appeal and shining a spotlight on how we’re supporting stroke survivors.
“Stroke is one of the biggest killers and a leading cause of disability and around 7,400 people have a stroke each year in Wales.
“Like all charities, our income has been badly hit during the pandemic but stroke survivors need us now more than ever and every donation will help us make a difference.”
The charity’s partner ISS UK has pledged to give £1 for every £1 donated, meaning the value of gifts can be doubled for the first £15,000 donated.
The BBC1 Lifeline appeal for the Stroke Association can be watched on iPlayer here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000tq6d/lifeline-stroke-association
For more information about stroke and the support services for survivors and carers in Wales visit www.stroke.org.uk or call the Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100.