Stroke survivor Helen sets herself fun run challenge

Helen Graham and husband Stewart. INPT28-005
Helen Graham and husband Stewart. INPT28-005

A teacher and mum-of-four who survived a stroke eight months ago is calling on the local community to join her at the Markethill Community Festival Fun Run and raise awareness of stroke.

Helen Graham (45), from Hamiltonsbawn, had no family history of stroke and says it was a “complete shock to me and everyone in our family”.

She explained, “I’d had a terrible headache, experienced dizziness and felt exhausted but just put it down to my busy work and family life. I went up to bed and suddenly my legs and arms stopped working. I felt my face go numb and I couldn’t speak. I was trying to scream for help but I couldn’t get my words out. It was terrifying.

“My husband Stewart called an ambulance and I was rushed to hospital. The last thing I can remember was one of my youngest sons standing at the top of the stairs as I was carried downstairs on a stretcher and the cold air hitting my face as the paramedics put me in the ambulance.”

Helen spent more than a week in Craigavon hospital and continued her long recovery at home, with the support of the Community Stroke Team, family and friends.

She said, “Stroke has had a big impact on me. The physical and emotional impact is massive. I’ve had to relearn how to do simple things like walking with legs that felt as if they were filled with cement and my energy levels aren’t what they used to be.

“I find that very frustrating and I’ve had to accept that I need to rest more and give myself time to recover. Like many other stroke survivors I also experience memory problems and live with the fear of another stroke.

“I always thought stroke only happened to older people but since my experience I’ve met lots of young stroke survivors and sadly lost a close friend to stroke in May.”

She added, “Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer and more men than prostate and testicular cancer combined in a year. It’s one of the top three causes of disability and death in the UK. It is important that everyone understands the risk factors - such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and diabetes – and takes steps to reduce their risk of stroke.

“My stroke has brought it home to me how short life can be and I’m determined to enjoy every day. My husband Stewart has been so supportive and we’re stronger as a family unit because of this terrible experience.”

Helen has supported the Markethill Community Festival for many years so this year the festival decided to organise the annual family fun run/walk in aid of the Stroke Association Northern Ireland. It provides stroke recovery services and also funds research.

Helen has set herself a target of completing the family fun run/walk with her husband and children Ryan, Laura, Conor and Alex. It will take place on Monday, August 1. Registration on the evening is from 6.30pm outside Lily Pink. The starter’s horn will go off at 7pm sharp.