Be Yourself: the Stortford stroke survivors who meet up at Starbucks
The Bishop's Stortford 'Be Yourself' group are a positive, warm and friendly bunch who are there to help anyone who has had a stroke.
Set up by Sam Barrett two-and-a-half years ago, the group was originally intended to help young people after they had had suffered a stroke. However, she has since discovered that people of all ages benefit from attending, from 18 to 80-plus.
Sam was 43 when she had her stroke. She woke in the middle of the night feeling dizzy. She staggered to the bathroom, and it became clear that something was very wrong. After a day of bedrest, she decided to go to the doctor’s.
Initially, the GP thought she had a virus, so Sam was told to go home and rest. The next day, Sam went to A&E after she lost all feeling down one side.
When she saw the consultant she was unable to speak as she was experiencing aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage or injury to language parts of the brain.
In the aftermath of her stroke, Sam found that a lot of the support groups for survivors were focused more on helping the elderly; she wanted to start something more vibrant and informal.
The Stroke Association helped her to set up the group, and now, nearly four years later, it meets once a month in Starbucks in Jackson Square.
The aim is to help each other recover and to make a positive difference to people’s lives. “We try to push each other a little bit. We encourage each other without realising we’re doing it,” Sam said.
Jon Lovett is one of the members. He had his stroke in February 2012. He had been out cycling and suddenly lost the sight in his right eye.
He went to A&E and was given a form to fill in. He had lost the ability to write, and when he tried to ask for help he found he could not speak.
A scan showed he had a blood clot causing a blockage on the brain. He spent four days on an acute ward. His family were told to say goodbye to him.
He was paralysed on his right side, but slowly Jon began to recover. Four days later he was moved to the rehabilitation unit, where he stayed for two weeks.
Jon cheerfully gets on with life now. On his right arm he has a tattoo of a brain with the message ‘It is what it is’.
Sam refers to the members of her group as ‘snowflakes’ as each one is unique. “Everyone here is so different, no stroke is the same,” she explains.
“It can happen to anyone. If it does happen to anyone in this area, we are here.”
The youngest member of the group, Alisha Mountney, recently took part in a skydive to raise money for the Stroke Association and the Anaphylaxis Campaign.
In November last year, when she was only 17, Alisha suffered a functional stroke. She also has severe anaphylaxis to food and medicines. She wanted to raise money and awareness for both charities, as a thank-you to the support and information she’s received from them.
Alisha has raised £875 so far. She is hoping to reach £1,000 so she can donate £500 to each charity. To sponsor her, visit justgiving.com/teams/Alisha-mountney
The Bishop’s Stortford ‘Be Yourself’ group meets on the second Monday of every month in Starbucks from 10am. Sam added that Ant Mecklenburgh, the manager, and his team have been very supportive.
If you have had a stroke, or know someone who has, and you’d like to find out about the ‘Be Yourself’ group, email Sam via email@example.com or visit stroke.org.uk.