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Solving the puzzle

Nancy and her husband Kevin stand smiling

Nancy Barron knew exactly what was happening when her legs gave way in the bathroom. She was having a stroke. And she realised that fact in an instant because, just three years earlier, she’d seen her husband go through the same thing.

The stroke last September has left Nancy with aphasia, which affects her speech and use of numbers, and sensitivity in her right hand, but she says she owes her recovery to Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Nancy, 64, lives in Perth with her husband, Kevin Giles, and their daughter, Sarah, who has a learning disability.

She says: “I knew nothing about strokes until Kevin had his. He was much more affected than I was and was in hospital for seven weeks. I was with him the morning it happened, so thankfully I had some idea of what a stroke looks like.”

Nancy was given thrombolysis at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to remove a blood clot from her brain, then spent two weeks on the same stroke ward at Perth Royal Infirmary where Kevin had begun his rehabilitation. It was apparent that she didn’t need physical rehabilitation but had suffered cognitive damage.

Having to learn the basics

She recalls: “I couldn’t write at first, so I put myself to work. I started copying things out of the newspaper to practise. I found it frustrating that I could not write or speak.

“I loved to do crosswords. On my first day in hospital, Kevin brought me the newspaper so I could do the crossword. I had no clue what to do – I could read the words, but I couldn’t make sense of them.

“Eventually I challenged myself to solve one clue, then two. This became a big part of my own rehab. I’m still not as good as I used to be at crosswords, but I am still quite good.”

Everyone needs somebody to talk to

Pandemic restrictions meant Nancy missed out on the occupational and language therapy she might have expected. Then she received a call from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Hazel Staniforth, the Community Support Co-ordinator for Tayside.

Nancy says: “Hazel’s call was like a lifeline to me. I joined Hazel’s online support group, and she introduced me to a volunteer called Sam, who has been amazing and helped me so much.”

Nancy had to give up work after her stroke but hopes to return to work part time soon. She is also now a volunteer on the CHSS aphasia support network, adding: “If I can help other people, I’d be delighted

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