As part of Stroke Awareness Month throughout May Lance, from Calverton, is sharing his story of living life after a stroke.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, killing brain cells. Damage to the brain can affect the way your body works, and it can also change how you think and feel.
There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year with around one in four strokes happening to people of working age.
Lance Leivers was looking forward to meeting his new baby as his wife, Lizi, went into labour with their first child. However, at just 33, Lance suffered a major stroke whilst his baby boy was being born.
Before the stroke, Lance was self-employed manufacturing and supplying concrete. He loved snowboarding and skateboarding and had even built a full ramp in his garden.
“I don’t remember feeling any different before the stroke happened,” explains Lance. “I was in the labour ward with Lizi and she asked me to take off her glasses but I couldn’t remember how to take them off. My speech became distorted, I was ‘speaking jibberish’ and I became very confused. I felt weakness on my right side and I started to vomit within ten minutes of the symptoms.”
Lizi’s midwife immediately recognised the symptoms of a stroke and called for help and Lance was taken to City Hospital for tests.
“I spent a day in hospital and had to return for further scans the following day. I started to regain strength in my arms and I was able to walk with supervision. However, my speech didn’t fully recover and I found it difficult to think of the right words to say. I also found that I was using objects inappropriately and the day after my stroke, as I washed and got dressed, I attempted to put deodorant in my mouth until my dad stopped me.”
“Initially, I couldn’t pick up or hold a pen. I was unable to write and my reading was slower. I also had difficulty recognising letters, which made spelling very difficult and I had difficulty dialling numbers on my phone.
Lance is being supported by Nottinghamshire Healthcare’s Community Stroke Team who visit him 2 to 3 times a week at home.
“Lance couldn’t use his upper arm even though the power had returned” explains Occupational Therapist, Michelle. “This was because of a condition common after stroke called ‘apraxia’, a cognitive difficulty which can cause a person to have difficulty performing a motor task, such as shaving or writing, on command. We worked with Lance to improve the function in his arm and to re-learn how to use it in daily tasks, improving his thinking skills and support with returning to work.
“Speech and Language Therapist, Louise, focused on the processing of information and improving Lance’s ability to spell again and write notes to dictation which is important for his work.”
“I still struggle with thinking quickly as I now need more time to process information than I did before the stroke,” says Lance. “But, having the help of an occupational therapist and speech and language therapist has really helped with my recovery especially in the first few months. Without the help of the Community Stroke Team, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
His wife, Lizi, has also found the situation difficult to cope with.
“Lance’s recovery has amazed me but it’s been hard at times because of when the stroke occurred and having a new baby to look after. However, I feel the Community Stroke Team has given him more confidence. I sometimes forget that he’s had a stroke.”
Although there is an increased risk of having a further stroke Lance doesn’t try to invest too much time thinking about it. His focus is on making a full recovery within a year’s time.
“I’m now able to drive my car but cannot drive the lorry at work for year so I am relying on my colleagues for now,” says Lance. “I’m back to skateboarding but I’ve found that I’m slower to react with less speed and I can’t do some of the moves I used to do.
“My next goal is to get back on the snowboard because I now have a son to train up in the coming years and I will be brushing up on my skills I learnt as a qualified instructor. I also want to get back in the surf as soon as possible.
“Looking at it positively, we both see our baby as having saved my life because we were already at the hospital and the midwife recognised the signs immediately.”