Friday Reflection: How a stroke changed Mike's life

It’s Men’s Health Week (14-20 June), a time when men are encouraged to reflect on what it means to be healthy and on what steps they can take now and into the future to ensure they look after themselves.

Below is a blog by survivor of stroke Mike Whittle. Mike, from Hobart in Tasmania, had two strokes and a heart attack in 2015. The 69-year-old smoked and had a highly stressful job.

Mike credits lifestyle changes and the connections he’s made with other survivors of stroke as major factors in his recovery. He wants others to understand the true value in connecting with people with similar experiences to living a meaningful, happy life post-stroke.

As a survivor of two strokes and a heart attack, I have a few words of wisdom I’d like to share this Men’s Health Week.

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Firstly, nobody is invincible. Before my stroke, my health was not top of mind. I was a smoker and worked in a highly stressful job. This is not a good combination.

I was in my early 60s when stroke changed my life in an instant.

I went from being a man at the top of my profession to someone with cognitive issues including short-term memory loss. I had to learn to read again. This took around six months and was incredibly disheartening for a guy with a literature degree.

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I found the transition from hospital to home challenging and lonely at times. While I was lucky to be alive and to have loved ones around me.

There is a lot to come to terms with mentally after a major health scare. I felt like I was a different version of myself, and it takes time to adjust.

My rehabilitation journey included learning how to manage my emotions and accept support from others. The most incredible form of support and strength I have found is the connection I have with other stroke survivors. People who simply ‘get it’.

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I now coordinate the Hobart Stroke Support Group. Through this group I have made incredible friendships with people who have had similar experiences. These friends understand me, empower me and give me courage to stay on the path of self-improvement.

We feel comfortable together and share tips and different strategies that have helped in our recoveries. You can see the impact a group like this has when a new member comes in. Within weeks they seem brighter and more confident and know they are not alone.

Our partners also benefit from the connections they make with other partners and carers in the group whose lives have inadvertently changed.

The Stroke Foundation’s EnableMe website and social media channels have also been a great source of information and inspiration and connectedness since my stroke and make me feel like I am part of a bigger community.

I am also pleased to be involved with the Foundation’s StrokeSafe Speaker program. As part of this program, I present talks to workplaces and community groups to raise awareness of what a stroke is, how to spot a stroke using the F.A.S.T. test (Face.Arms.Speech.Time) and how to prevent stroke. This gets me into the general community doing something meaningful, something that could actually save a life.

From my experience, it is so important to look after your mental health and get involved in something that brings you joy – however that may look for you. When you combine that with a healthy balanced diet exercise, plenty of sleep (and no cigarettes!) it is possible to thrive after stroke.

If you need advice, call StrokeLine on 1800 787 653.

Friday Reflection is your chance to write on any topic that stirs you. Simply send your contribution to [email protected] and put Friday Reflection in the subject field. Published authors will receive a $20 Prezzee digital gift card that can be spent at more than 120 retail outlets.

Have you ever suffered a stroke? What helped you when you were in recovery? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Mike Whittle



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