After returning from a holiday in Spain, eighteen-year-old Tom suffered a stroke possibly brought on, doctors said, by stress. Tom had been revising hard for his A levels and he knew a lot was riding on the results.
‘When I had my stroke I was having a shower and I collapsed in the bath tub,’ he said. ‘ I couldn’t move, paralysed on the right-hand side. My mum was about to go out but came running up and used a knife to get into the bathroom. I couldn’t speak. She dialled 999.’
Tom was taken to the hospital where a nurse asked him three times if he was drunk. Tom couldn’t talk and eventually the medical team realised he had, in fact, suffered a stroke.
‘After a few weeks, I could sort of walk but my right arm was pretty useless. My brain had also been damaged and that meant memory loss and real problems with speech and understanding. I would try to say something to my mum or a friend but the words just wouldn’t come.
‘Now I am home, I can get around but am still trying to speak properly. It is so frustrating. So often I know what I want to say but I just can’t say it. And when I am stuck on a word I lose track of what I am saying and ask myself what on earth I was talking about.’
Tom has been to meetings with other people who suffer difficulties with speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. The biggest help, he says, has come from linking up with Headway.
‘When I went to my first rehab meeting all I could say was ‘I’m Tom.’ But everyone there had a brain injury and the same kind of problems, so everyone understood. After six months I felt I was making progress. That helped build my confidence massively.’
Tom was on Headway’s 12-month HABIT rehab programme and has finally secured the role he was originally working towards at an accountancy firm.
‘With support from Headway, I managed to slowly get my confidence back, which has really helped me with my job.’