Bellshill stroke survivor uses Taekwondo to fight back

Paul Burns shows off his Taekwondo skills
Paul Burns shows off his Taekwondo skills

A Bellshill man is using his love of Taekwondo to rebuild his life after stroke and is encouraging others like him to get the joy back in their lives.

Paul Burns (57) will be sharing his story at the ‘Living Well After Stroke’ event in Perth’s Dewars Centre on Saturday, May 11.

Paul Burns from Bellshill was just 55 when he suffered a stroke

Paul Burns from Bellshill was just 55 when he suffered a stroke

The free event hosted by Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and Different Strokes is for stroke survivors of working age to talk about the challenges they face and their experiences of life after stroke.

The charities are hoping to gain valuable insight from people’s lived experiences and develop future services with the stroke survivors’ at the centre.

Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of all strokes in Scotland in 2017/18 happened to people under the age of 65. The charities want to ensure that support is in place for people in this age group who perhaps have jobs and young families.

The event will cover topics such as returning to work, dealing with low mood, managing money worries, the effect on family life and keeping socially connected and active.

Paul suffered a stroke in June 2017 whilst away on business in Aberdeen which completely changed his life.

He lost movement down his right hand side, he struggled to wash and clothe himself or even make a cup of tea.

Paul said: “I woke up at 4.30am in the hotel room with a jolt. I remember right away I noticed something was wrong with me. I began to realise I had little or no feeling down the right hand side of my body. I managed to get myself up into a sitting position at the edge of the bed and the feeling began to come back.

“I walked across the room to the table when all the feeling was suddenly lost down my right hand side again. Luckily I managed to throw myself to the bed. I called the hotel reception and an ambulance arrived in 20 minutes.

“The scariest moment for me was in the hospital. The doctor asked for my consent to receive thrombolysis treatment. I asked if I could wait for my family to arrive to decide and he told me that I might die if I didn’t have the treatment. I signed the form there and then.”

Paul describes the impact his stroke had on his and his family’s lives.

He said: “The most difficult thing for me was accepting that I needed help from other people. Here I was a 55-year-old man unable to wash, clothe myself or make a cup of tea.

“This led to what I call my ‘dark moments’, frustration was getting the better of me. I was getting angry with myself and those closest to me.

“Since having the stroke I’ve had to cut back on work which obviously impacts on my family as we have less income so that’s an added pressure.”

Paul was encouraged to get back to his Taekwondo classes to help him on his recovery journey.

He said: “The team at Coathill Hospital where I received wonderful support from occupational therapists and physiotherapists encouraged me to get back to doing the things I enjoyed most.

“I started to attend my Taekwondo classes again. First of all I just watched but by the end of August 2017 I was slowly but surely taking part again. I’ve improved and progressed and can sometimes take part in the full class now.

“I found Taekwondo really helpful with my rehabilitation as the exercises I was given at the hospital I incorporated into the movements I knew from my training.

“It was really important for me to get back to doing something I loved. I would encourage people, even if they can’t fully do what they did before their stroke to make sure they are still doing something they enjoy each week.”

Paul started attending Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Peer Support Group and found that meeting with other stroke survivors and sharing experiences really helped him.

He said: “Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has helped me a great deal. I attended their Peer Support Group, Positive Stroke Solutions, and began to experience how support from other stroke survivors helped my recovery process.

“I wasn’t alone all these other survivors had felt like me, we were angry, frustrated, vulnerable, and at times lonely. Having attended the groups those negative emotions began to fade, they still resurface occasionally but they are part of life.

“Like I always say, I have had bad days since having the stroke, but I had bad days before it too.

“I find attending the groups beneficial to me but also get pleasure from seeing the participants gaining confidence, getting a smile back on their faces and opening up. It’s fantastic to be part of something so special.

“You must believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Each day is a new day, a new beginning. Thank your body for giving you this chance to keep going.”

The Living Well After Stroke event is open from 10am-3pm covering topics such as returning to work, dealing with low mood, managing money worries, the effect on family life and keeping socially connected and active,.

To book tickets visit www.chss.org.uk/lwas, call Deborah Slater on 07388378604 or email deborah.slater@chss.org.uk.