A previously fit and healthy man who had a cold over Christmas suffered a severe stroke days later.
Steve Clark’s life changed completely on December 28, 2010, when he was just 45 years old.
The Aylesbury man recalls: “I was fit and healthy but had a bit of a cold over Christmas, just a normal winter cold, when I woke up in the morning and felt as if I had a migraine. I had a bad headache and was feeling very rough.
“I can’t remember what happened next but I remember ambulance people coming to cart me off, being carried downstairs and put into an ambulance. I knew it was pretty serious when they did the ‘blues and twos’ to the hospital. It was very surreal at the time thinking this is happening.
“They said if I didn’t undergo surgery, I would be dead by the morning. They gave me less than 50 per cent chance of surviving the operation.”
Mr Clark, who spent 18 weeks in hospital before being able to go home, is urging other survivors of brain injury to join him at charity Headway Aylesbury Vale which helped him regain his confidence after his health was shattered.
He can now only walk very short distances with a frame or stick because of paralysis to the left side of his body. He has also lost 40 per cent of his vision and suffers from epilepsy.
He said: “This could happen to anyone. I immediately lost all of my independence and am reliant on people to take me everywhere.
“I have carers twice a day – morning and evening – and cannot easily walk and dress myself.”
Mr Clark, who has a 16 year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, had to give up his steady job as a motor insurance loss adjustor and claims investigator after the stroke, and his wife has a part-time job to help look after the family.
He admits: “If you are at home, you get lonely and scared.”
But he credits Headway for the huge help it has given him since he joined a year after his stroke.
“I come here to socialise and meet other people who have had head trauma, so we can discuss what we have been through and we can help each other,” he said. “This shows you are not alone.
“People need to be aware of the services Headway offers and the help they can give people with brain injury. I have met a lot of friends coming here.”
Headway is currently open on Monday and Wednesdays in Wedgewood Street, Fairford Leys. Mr Clark attends both days.
When he’s there, he plays Scrabble, enjoys creative writing, drawing, discussions, drinking tea and socialising. “I would come every day if I could,” he said.
Headway hopes in future to offer services across the entire week. Currently there are between 15 and 20 people who attend each week, but the charity believes there are some 1,500 acquired brain injury survivors in Aylesbury Vale alone.
Wife Vera, 46, says her husband’s stroke meant that overnight their previous happy, normal busy family life disintegrated.
“This has put a massive strain on our family and changed our lives completely,” she said. “I am more of a carer than a wife.”
She said Headway was a ‘Godsend’.
“He went for two days a week and it gave me a bit more time for myself. But now it’s not enough,” she said.
She and Steve would love Headway to be able to extend so it could open more days a week.
“He loves it and socialises there,” she said.
“He even went out bowling the other week with Headway. It was so nice. If he could go there every day, I would love it.”