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News > You are my rock: Ongoing CHSS support gives stroke survivor Douglas confidence to try new things

You are my rock: Ongoing CHSS support gives stroke survivor Douglas confidence to try new things

In the seven years since Douglas Ferguson’s world was turned upside down by a stroke, the 69-year-old has come a long way. 

Where once he would drive himself around Glasgow to different leisure centres to try out their facilities, now he takes part in an online fitness class and an Easy Exercise at the Kelvin Hall near his home.

While Douglas’s world has changed, his ability to navigate this changing environment has been helped with ongoing support from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

I don’t know where we’d been without Bronwyn and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. You’ve made a massive difference for him.

He shows his deep gratitude with a big thumbs up and a smiling “ta”. The stroke left Douglas with aphasia, a communication disorder that affects his speech. For Douglas, that means saying names, objects and numbers are almost impossible for him.

He leaves the talking to his partner Dorothy who has been by his side every step of the way since the day he collapsed in a supermarket in 2017.

Dorothy explained: “He was in a Tesco branch in another part of the city when he suddenly collapsed. The staff were incredible. They called an ambulance so quickly that he was in the Royal Infirmary within half an hour.”

There Douglas underwent thrombectomy, a procedure that removes the blood clot causing the stroke. He spent the next three months in Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow, and it was on his return home that Bronwyn Tibbs, the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Community Services Coordinator in the city, got in touch.

She’s been Douglas and Dorothy’s rock ever since and still calls him weekly.

Douglas spent 40 years as an environmental health officer with Glasgow City Council. He proudly shows off his long-service certificate. Dorothy had retired as an English teacher a year before he did, and it was then Douglas enthusiastically joined the council’s Glasgow Club and took himself off on adventures around the city exploring different pools and gyms.

He was also able to indulge his love of pub quizzes and classical music, too, going to recitals at the City Halls and to opera performances.

Out of the blue

The stroke came completely out of the blue, when Douglas was 63, and changed both of their lives. Douglas is no longer able to drive, but during pandemic restrictions, he joined a weekly online class that spent the first half hour putting participants through some sitting exercises and the second in a challenging quiz.

Dorothy recalled: “If the exercise went beyond 30 minutes, Douglas would be pointing at the clock, impatient for the quiz! Now that class is exercise only, and he’s not so keen, although he still goes every week.

“We have been so lucky with the help we’ve had from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. When Bronwyn first got in touch, she sent young volunteers to sit with Douglas, and they’d read stories from the newspaper to him. It kept in touch and he appreciated working on his language.

New challenges

“He’s also tried out the singing groups, and Bronwyn got him involved in a new activity, set up by Glasgow City Council’s museum service at the Kelvin Hall, near where we live.

“The group were all stroke survivors who were asked to pick a theme or a subject they’re interested in and then the museum assistant brought things from the archive that relate to the topic that they can put on display.

“It’s a very intelligent way to engage with people who have a disability. They’re not learning impaired, but many like Douglas have trouble speaking. This sort of activity is not patronising at all. It’s very impressive.”

The couple admits neither knew much or anything about aphasia at all before Douglas had his stroke. And Douglas was a self-confessed technophobe until Bronwyn arranged computer classes. He has now embraced a tablet with enthusiasm, particularly for his favourite pastime, browsing Wikipedia.

He still pops to the supermarket and local shops, using a lot of mime to explain what he needs.

Dorothy said: “The public knows so little about aphasia. We knew so little ourselves about it and also so little about how the brain works.

“But we know Douglas is still one of the lucky ones. Physically he has a bit of a slow right leg, but apart from that, he does ok. I don’t know where we’d been without Bronwyn and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. You’ve made a massive difference for him.”

If you’re living with the effects of a chest, heart or stroke condition or Long Covid and looking for advice and information, please contact Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0899. You can also text NURSE to 66777 or email   

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