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Support Us > Fiona's Story

Fiona’s Story

A routine shopping trip changed Fiona Dickens’ life forever. She had suffered a stroke as she collapsed on to a snow-covered pavement.

“When I left hospital, I wasn’t given any information about aphasia, and I had no support.”

After three months in hospital, Fiona was wheelchair-bound and could say only one phrase: “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”

Now, 12 years on, Fiona is fit and active. Having learned to speak all over again, she is a vital part of Chest Heart & Stroke’s support group for fellow aphasia sufferers in Lothian.

Fiona, 66, now says of that time: “I had no speech, but I needed to speak, and I did. I was determined.

“When I left hospital, I wasn’t given any information about aphasia, and I had no support. I’d like to see some mechanism introduced where that information is easily available and given to aphasia sufferers and their families immediately that they get a diagnosis.

“Everyone should understand what aphasia is. Everyone from doctors to children should learn about the condition because then they can help people like me and understand why we struggle.”

Aphasia is a condition that affects around a third of all stroke survivors. The condition impacts an individual’s ability to speak and understand what others are saying. Their ability to read and write can also be affected.

Fiona lives in Dirleton, East Lothian, with her husband Paul. She had to retire from her role as a special educational needs head teacher after her stroke. But Fiona has no regrets. The job had become increasingly stressful, and now her days are filled with her voluntary work for CHSS and as a visitor to a local nursing home.

Not only does Fiona offer peer support to stroke sufferers with a new diagnosis of aphasia, she also volunteers in our North Berwick shop.

Not only does Fiona offer peer support to stroke sufferers with a new diagnosis of aphasia, she also volunteers in our North Berwick shop and, lockdowns permitting, runs fun afternoons for stroke patients in a local nursing home.

She says: “I volunteer because it makes me feel useful. I get great satisfaction from it. I felt the same way about the children I worked with. Those children deserve help and so do stroke patients.”

Jackie Slater, Lead Co-ordinator for CHSS in Lothian, says Fiona is an inspiration to fellow aphasia sufferers and to CHSS staff.

She says: “I first met Fiona about six years ago, and her speech has come on so much in that time. The message often is that there will be no improvement in someone’s speech after six months. Well, that message is wrong, and Fiona is the proof of that.

“Fiona encourages people to live their lives – she’s a great example of that. Families often wrap a stroke sufferer in cotton wool, and a person themselves might say they no longer drive or they’ve given up on travel.

“Fiona urges them to be bolder, to push themselves harder, to do the things they used to. She’s great at encouraging people, a real inspiration.”

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