Ian's story

Hello everybody. My names Ian McCoulough and I have Aphasia.. I am married with two children. My wife's name is Isabella, she prefers Izy, my son's name is Chris and my daughters name is Karen. I have two grandsons on my daughters side called Jack aged 10 and Noa aged 4. Before I took early retirement I was a time served Ships Draughtsman. Later on in my employment, I was a Production Engineer and ultimately an Estimator, costing the price for fabrication of offshore modules for the oil and gas industry. For my downtime, from work and family, I played the guitar. I started learning when I was thirteen years old ( I wanted to be Hank Marvin ). I am still learning even as we speak today. It's a wonderful hobby. That was until last July. I was holidaying in Majorca with my family when I had the stroke.

Unlike what is the norm, I did not lose consciousness. My speech went first. I could only really say the immortal words "I will be alright in a minute" and very soon this became limited to "yes" or "no". I just couldn't think of the words to say. Everything was confusing. The hotels management were told of my predicament and promptly got a doctor and an ambulance. The paramedics and the doctor arrived at much the same time. As soon as he saw me, the doctor gave me something for my blood pressure, as this was very high at the time. He then wasted no time in referring me to hospital. The ambulance ride took best part of an hour . By the time the reception, at the Spanish hospital they took me to, had validated my insurance I was eventually admitted. (Yes, for those who have seen it, the hospital is the one on the tele.) Reception aside (they were only doing their jobs), they took excellent care of me. The Doctors were good and the Translators even better. I could understand everything the Translator said on behalf of the Doctors. As the stroke hit me, I lost the total use of my right arm and leg and, most importantly, my speech was gone completly. I just couldn't reply in English let alone Spanish. (Which is extremely frustrating and frightening). I have since found out that it was a trauma to the left side of my brain caused by a clot that was the problem. I know I'm now talking to the converted, but, its this side of the brain that controls your speech, among other things, and hence, it's what is responsible for my communication difficulties. I was in hospital in Spain from the 11th. July till the day of my flight home, the 26th. of July 2013. 15 days all told, eight days of which were in the intensive care ward. To make matters worse, my wife, four days after I had the stroke, fractured her ankle. Unkown to me, she was in the same hospital as me on the night of her accident. It was some holiday.

Meanwhile back to the story.... Towards the end of this time, I was beginning to get a few feelings in my leg thanks to work the french physio did. She would get me out of bed and sit me in a chair and tell me to lift my leg. The left one was no problem. Then I realised she was talking about my right leg. This went on for a few days and eventually I could walk, ever so tentatively, with the aid of a zimmer frame. I could in fact hobble along enough for the doctors to say I was fit enough to fly. I flew home on the 26th. with a Medi-Vac doctor provided by my insurance company. The flight home was uneventful. My Medi-Vac doctor made sure of this by administering to me oxygen from the cabin crews first aid kit. Apparently your oxygen levels in your blood decrease with alltitude. It's amazing what you discover when you've had a stroke. On arrival in this country, at Newcastle, I was taken straight to a local NHS hospital, chosen by my insurance company, for appraisal by a Consultant. It happened to be a Saturday and I had to wait until the following Monday for to get the ok to go home. I was only in there for a short while, but the staff were, while undermaned, a credit to the NHS. Their caring and compassion made my short stay there pleasant enough. Never the less, I could only think about getting home. That's where I wanted to be most of all. The long haul of my recovery would start then.

Now you see me as I am today, much improved. A testimony to the NHS and, surprisingly, the local University. For three month following my repatriation to this country, the stroke after care service provided by the NHS supplied me with physiotherapists and a speech therapist. They did a wonderful job. They encouraged me and were convinced I would recover well. Then it all stopped. You only get 3 month and then its over. (They say that this was attributed to government budgets and cut-backs.) My NHS physio, during his assessment of my condition, had referred me to the local University as a potential candidate for a project they were working on named "Limbs Alive". This was a project undertaken by the University on behalf of a leading software company. It involved testing out a video game, which had had a degree of success with young children who had suffered strokes. The Universities project was to make the same game more interesting for adults with the same condition. This university course was concurrent with the aforementioned NHS service. Overall, this was a great success. It helped me gain the use of my upper limbs. l am grateful to have been associated with it. A friend of my wifes came to see us, she works in a different health authority, and mentioned, in conversation, the Aphasia Centre at the same local university. " WE HAD NEVER HEARD OF IT."

When she told us about it, we asked our NHS speech therapist to please get us a referral with the Speech and Language Department at the University. Firstly, I had an interview to see if I was a suitable candidate for the clinic and then, I was accepted into therapy. This was the result I and my wife wanted. I had to wait about two months after the NHS post stroke service finished for the clinic at the University to commence. It started on the 28th. January 2014. I was glad my recouperation was going to be in the hands of proffessionals once again.

My wife, son and daughter have all been, and continue to be, extremely supportive and patient with me. I know its not been easy. I am lucky to have such a loving family. They fight my corner every time. It's so frustrating not to be able to communicate your very real thoughts into words.

The rest is down to the University's Speech and Language Facility.

I'd like to convey my gratitude to the staff of the university, dealing with aphasia, for all their hard work, giving me the belief and self confidence to realise that I can communicate successfully.

My goal here is to be more fluent and all the therapy that the qualified speech therapists and the students under their tutelage have come up with is doing the job. It is a slow process, but they have managed to make it beneficial and fun to be involved in.

For people like me, it has been a blessing,

Oh and by the way, I can now strum a few chords on my guitar. I have good movement in my arm but the final touch is not quite there... yet. Still its early days. Maybe someone here in the audience can suggest a way that could help me overcome this one final hurdle. Any ideas? I hope you enjoyed my story. Thank you for listening.