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Online support group transformed stroke survivor’s health

Spelling mistakes in his texts to his sister spelled out that something was wrong with Mic Starbuck.

In fact, the retired academic had suffered a stroke without realising. And once his sister had alerted his family, they quickly realised recent falls and slurred speech were the symptoms of the stroke.

A short stay in hospital was followed by just as short a stay in a rehabilitation ward. However, Mic has recovered well and puts that down to joining Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s online rehab group.

Walking for health

Now he is working on a plan to help group members take their online physio and exercises offline and start walking for health.

Mic, 71, lives in Burnside, near Glasgow. When he had the stroke last year, he and wife Carolyn were already shielding because of cancer, while Mic has asthma and is sensitive to fumes.

He says: “The longest-lasting effect of the stroke has been on my left leg. I’ve had to give up driving and I need to walk with a stick. But I’ve come on leaps and bounds since joining the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland support group because walking is so important for my health.

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and I had used walking to lose more than six stones in weight to manage the condition.

“I had excellent care in the acute ward at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where I was admitted last year.

“When I was released from hospital, the occupational therapist came regularly, but the Covid-19 restrictions at the time meant only one person could come to the house so there was no physio for me. I had to find a local physiotherapist and pay for the service myself.”

Mic’s therapy ended after six months and he turned to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, with whom he has worked on clean air campaigns in the past, to help him in his recovery.

He joined the weekly online support group, which meets every Thursday when two physios take them through a series of chair-based exercises focusing on aerobics and building up muscle tone.

Getting active

For Mic, the next step is to encourage group members, who are spread across Scotland, to start walking on their own.

And he is working with Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Physical Activity Coordinator Stuart Brown on a plan to make this as safe as possible.

He says: “It’s very important for people in the group to move on and progress. I’m trying to do that for myself. Every day I try and walk the 2k to my local café where I’m a bit of a fixture.

“I’ve had a couple of falls, so my sons bought me an Apple watch that will alert them and the emergency services if I have a fall when I’m out walking. That reassures them that I’m safe.

It’s very important for people in the group to move on and progress

“We want those in the group to feel comfortable and safe when they venture out, so having some kind of GPS device that tracks their movements is something we’re looking into.

“I understand that people are nervous about getting back out. I was nervous about going back to my favourite café because my wife and I had been shielding for such a long time. We’re not just dealing with the aftermath of stroke but also the reality of Covid.

“The group is so important, but no one has to go for a walk in a big group. They can go alone or with a friend, so long as they have found a safe route locally.”

To join our Physical Activity online support group, please visit

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