Carrickfergus stroke survivor helping others to rebuild their lives this festive season

A Carrickfergus stroke survivor is supporting a Christmas appeal by a charity close to her heart.

Karen Batten is urging the public to get behind the Stroke Association’s ‘Hope After Stroke’ campaign.

Karen, who had a stroke in July 2014 whilst at home getting ready to go to work for BBC Northern Ireland, says she has no recollection of it but she was found unconscious by a work colleague and a neighbour who then phoned an ambulance.

Karen was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast where they diagnosed her stroke. In the days directly after, she had great difficulty with both her speech and physical movement.

Karen Batten.

Karen said: “I remember in the beginning, the doctors or my family would ask me things and I’d answer but then wonder why nobody ever understood what I was saying. I now know that I wasn’t making much sense. I later learned that my words were coming out all jumbled. It was very confusing at the time.

“After two months in the Royal, I was transferred to the Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit (RABIU) in Musgrave Park Hospital where they worked with me for about six weeks. It was there I slowly recovered my speech and the ability to walk again.”

Karen remembers a real glimmer of hope was the realisation that she would be able to walk unaided again. She added: “I felt so relieved and happy that I’d not only regained my speech but when my physiotherapist told me that my walking was nearly perfect, it was a big moment for me. It was hard but I kept working on it and pushing myself to improve every day.

“Another glimmer of hope I remember from that six week stay at RABIU was going out to a local café for a coffee and having to speak to the serving staff to place the orders and deal with paying. Not only was this a welcome break but it was really a great opportunity to use all I’d been working on and it was so good for my self-confidence.”

Some time after leaving hospital, Karen started volunteering with the Stroke Association.

“For me, the Stroke Association has been just great. From the very first phone call I received from them not long after I got out of hospital, to now, when I can do my bit and give something back.

“This Christmas, I’d encourage anyone reading this to consider donating to the Stroke Association so they can continue to support stroke survivors like me to rebuild their lives after stroke.”

Karen is asking people to make a donation to the charity’s work supporting survivors and their families.

Ursula Ferguson, the Stroke Association’s head of Services in Northern Ireland, said: “When someone’s life has been shattered by stroke, they may feel all hope is gone. But we also know that stroke survivors cling onto even the smallest glimmer of hope. This is what powers them on to achieve what many thought would be impossible.

“From my time working at the Stroke Association in Northern Ireland, I’ve heard so many stories of remarkable people making recoveries even 20 years after their stroke.”

The charity estimates that there are nearly 39,000 people living with the effects of stroke in Northern Ireland, while around 4,000 people have a stroke every year.

“This pandemic has had a serious impact on our ability to raise funds through our usual community events and activities. Many people in our support services have praised the support they received from the Stroke Association, to build on that first glimmer of hope so that they could rebuild their lives after stroke.

“Hope might be found in a call to our helpline; through the friendship and support of our online community; or the ongoing support of our Stroke Association support coordinators. Rebuilding lives is impossible without hope. And that’s why we’re asking everyone across Northern Ireland to donate to the Stroke Association and help give someone the gift of hope this Christmas.”

To donate or for more information visit www.stroke.org.uk/hope

Click here to read: Mid and East Antrim Council helps raise stroke awareness

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