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Emma, 86, Cornwall

When Emma experienced a stroke in May 2010 she already had Osteoporosis, and Ankylosing Spondylitis (a form of arthritis whereby the spine, neck, hips are affected).

In the few weeks prior to her stroke, Emma had been feeling generally quite tired.

The morning of the stroke she had to ask her husband for some assistance to help dress her for the first time ever.

After breakfast she returned to bed feeling unwell, but by midday the doctor arrived and discovered that she was experiencing weakness down her right hand side.

The doctor called an ambulance, but despite being taken to hospital immediately, Emma wasn’t fully assessed for at least ten hours.

Emma’s stay on the stroke ward lasted three weeks and initially she couldn’t speak or move her right-hand-side.

She was prescribed blood thinning tablets and received very little physiotherapy, but her daughter visited daily, helping to get Emma’s arm and hand mobility to improve with the use of exercises.

Emma was then transferred to another residential centre for three months, where once again, very little physiotherapy was offered.

When Emma returned home her daughter relocated permanently in order to live with her mother full time and set up a bedroom for Emma in a ground-floor room.

The NHS provided Emma with an air mattress (and bed), but she lacked other essential items like continence pads.

It also took over a month for Emma to receive a wheelchair, but the sides were quite low and so it required a lot of effort and strength to sit upright.

This was eventually replaced with a very supportive wheelchair, but the downside to this is that it limits Emma’s movement and restricts her ability to do exercises.

In the early days after her stroke, Emma was keen to embark on physiotherapy and exercises, but due to a series of debilitating urine infections and difficulty securing a regular physiotherapist, her confidence and motivation depleted.

Five years on Emma is still keen on physiotherapy, wants to walk and even after all this time is showing incredible strength and has surprised the private physio with how much she can do.

On good days she seems to show improvement and is able to tell her family about decisions which were made many years ago, something she couldn’t have done three or four years ago.

Emma currently receives three brief daily visits by carers who wash and dress her using a hoist.

There are days when she can feed herself, practices writing with her left hand and is animated and articulate. On bad days, she sleeps a lot and her communication is limited.

Her long-term memory remains excellent, but her short-term memory is sometime marred by confusion.

Main impairments

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lack of mobility
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Incontinence
  • Impaired communication

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