How a little dog came to the rescue after his Sussex owner suffered a stroke
A stroke survivor has told how his little cockapoo dog came to his rescue as he tried to rebuild his life.
Jason Parker was struggling to cope following his illness when his little pet - Ralph - gave him a moment of hope.
It came as Jason was able to walk the three-year-old cockapoo again for the first time.
It marked a marvellous milestone for Jason on his road to recovery after the stroke – a bleed the size of a tennis ball in his brain - happened while he was raking leaves in the garden of his home in Bolney in December 2019.
“I felt suddenly tired, thinking I needed a break,” said Jason. “I then noticed that I couldn’t tell my left leg to kick a football. I then fell over and realised I couldn’t use my left arm either.
“My throat was tightening. I had to crawl with one arm back up to the house to call for help.
“My wife Victoria is a doctor and realised it was a stroke.
“I was taken by ambulance to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton within 20 minutes of the stroke, admitted to the hyper acute stroke unit and given a brain scan within an hour.
“No medicines were given other than a saline drip and then medication to reduce the panic attacks that I was experiencing.
“I had a bleed the size of a tennis ball in my brain. I couldn’t sit, stand, walk, hug.”
It took two weeks before doctors were able to see on a CT scan that the bleed was caused by an Arterial Venous Malformation or AVM, a naturally occurring angle of blood vessels in the brain, which had burst.
Jason is sharing his story to support the Stroke Association’s Hope After Stroke campaign, highlighting the difficulties the stroke survivors can face and moments that can give them optimism in their recovery.
“My hope after stroke was being able to walk Ralph and feel that I was able to do normal things again such as riding my bike,” said Jason.
“My first time out on a bike was only to get the paper but it felt good to feel the wind on my face again.
“I was 45 when I had my stroke, so it can happen at any age and to anyone who is healthy.
“I would like people to understand how difficult the mental side is, what fatigue - rather than tiredness - actually is and how you can make rapid progress with determination and the right support.
“The care in hospital was excellent, however once I was in the community it was very difficult to access. I was almost left to myself, unable to walk.
“My mental health was awful, but mostly ignored. I had to fund rehab physio myself and arrange for counselling. Care was well meaning, but insufficient.
“I would say I made very rapid progress in the first six months, learning to walk again etc.
“The speed of recovery then slowed and became frustrating, but it does still keep improving with repetition and stubbornness. You have to keep at it, it’s really tough.”
After three months in hospital, Jason returned home to recover with his wife Victoria and children Annabel, George and Scarlett.
A further four months later he was able to make a staged return to work as healthcare partner at KPMG, where he has now been full time for a year.
“It’s strange to think I will always have a cavity inside my brain, and that such a small blood vessel can cause so much damage,” said Jason.
The Stroke Association is asking those who can to donate today so that it can reach more stroke survivors and give them the specialist support they need to find hope and move forward with their recovery. Visit stroke.org.uk/hopeafterstroke