This website uses cookies to help provide you with a better service, and if you continue without changing your settings we assume you are happy to use them. You can change your cookie settings at any time and you can read our cookie policy here. Continue using cookies
Buzz News Post > Stroke Survivor Takes on Momentous Cycle One Year After Stroke
The Buzz > Stroke Survivor Takes on Momentous Cycle One Year After Stroke

Stroke Survivor Takes on Momentous Cycle One Year After Stroke

Former Royal Marine Commando, Troy Johnson, 53 from Longniddry in East Lothian, completed an incredible cycling challenge one year after surviving a life-changing stroke.

Troy cycled 56 miles and made stops at meaningful locations along the way, including where he had his stroke.

He wanted to take on this challenge to raise funds for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland who have been a great support to him in his recovery and to mark this amazing milestone in his recovery journey.

On 14th May 2020 Troy noticed something was wrong when he couldn’t recognise or control his right hand during a routine cycle ride.

Stuck by the side of the road, he managed to call his wife, Pippa, after several attempts. Then he saw a motorcycle paramedic approaching and tried to raise his hand to hail the potential lifesaver. But Troy couldn’t lift his arm or even call out and the paramedic drove on, leaving a concerned Troy on a grass verge. 

He had suffered a stroke. He had no power or control over his right hand, his leg bent awkwardly, and his speech was affected. He spent the next four weeks at the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh, undergoing extensive rehabilitation and speech therapy.

A cyber security specialist since leaving active service, Troy has always been fit and active. In the year of his 50th birthday, he completed 50 challenges, including triathlons, unassisted open sea kayak navigations, open sea swims and Munro bagging. 

Frustrated and determined

His anxiety and concern over the immediate effects of the stroke quickly gave way to concern and frustration about when and how he would get better. Troy and his wife Pippa also had to deal with further trauma, with the terminal illness of his stepfather-in-law, Tom. 

Determined to get back to full health, Troy had thrown himself into his cognitive and physical exercise regime. 

Troy recalls:I did my remedial exercises regularly. I got up earlier than the other patients every day, for light exercise so that I could be ready for the day. 

“It was only around about October, six months or so after the stroke, that I started to feel very fatigued after therapy and exercise. My physiotherapist repeatedly reminded me to slow down and to be kind to myself as there was no rush.” 

The period immediately after the stroke was perhaps the toughest time for Troy and Pippa as they were also supporting Pippa’s mum June and stepfather Tom with Tom’s terminal illness.  The couple moved in with Pippa’s parents at their home in Dechmont, near Uphall in West Lothian, so they could be with Tom at the end of his life. 

As the weeks and months passed, Troy was still working hard with exercises and therapy but also dealing with death and grief. Desperate to return to work, he took advantage of the vocational therapy available through his employer and completed an online course and test to help him prepare and grow in confidence.  But the stress and strain of dealing with the aftermath of the stroke was beginning to tell on him. 

He says frankly:I had to take stock. I have been practising mindfulness and that had helped me when I felt overwhelmed. I did some reflective practices to focus about who I was and that was difficult but ultimately very helpful. 

“No one had told me you can get depressed after a stroke, and I’ve had to be vigilant to acknowledge the signs because I could feel down and frustrated, which was affecting both Pippa and me.” 

Recovery

Everything changed for the better when Troy was referred to Audrey Bruce, the Lead Stroke Nurse for Lothian with Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland. While helping Troy deal with the clinical aspects of stroke recovery, Audrey also put him in touch with CHSS’s Community Support Services to give him more emotional and psychological support. 

Jackie Slater, the charity’s Lead Coordinator in Lothian, realised that Troy needed to connect with someone who had gone through the same experiences but had the same drive to recover as he did, Jackie arranged a meeting with Neil Francis, another stroke survivor who is now a trustee of the charity. 

Troy says: “I wanted to communicate with someone who has the same mindset as me. Through Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, I was put in touch with Neil, and it’s been fantastic. We are quite similar, both goal-orientated and both physically active. 

“Talking to him has been so positive for me. And, through our calls, he helped me decide on taking on a physical challenge.”

Troy wanted to repay Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and the NHS through his fundraising cycle ride on the anniversary of his stroke. 

Troy’s challenge cycle started from his home in Longniddry, he then made his way to meet his volunteer Neil at North Berwick Seabird Centre.  He then headed to Gullane and passed the location of where he suffered his stroke, before turning back to Edinburgh to stop off at the recovery stroke ward at the Astley Ainslie. The final leg of the journey took him via the coast road where he finished at Dechmont, paying his respects to his stepfather-in-law, Tom and the support he received from Marie Curie.

For Neil (pictured right), 55, chatting with Troy has been part of his own remarkable journey back from the stroke he suffered at the age of just 41.

Neil says: “Troy is an incredible guy. We’ve found a bond in a short time of knowing each other. Troy has similar challenges to me in that the effects of the stroke seem invisible to other people because they are things like memory or stamina. 

“I hope I’ve been able to help him realise stroke recovery is a long journey with a lot of bumps on the road. We all suffer setbacks, but it’s how we deal with those that matters. I tell him that we have to focus on the things we can do well and learn to cope with what we can’t. 

“Offering my time to someone like Troy is my own way of helping CHSS, which is an incredible organisation filled with incredible people doing incredible work.” 

Jackie Slater, Lead Community Service Coordinator in Lothian for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland said,

“It was a real pleasure to link up Troy and Neil - they hit it off right from the start.  Troy and Neil have been through similar experiences and really understand the challenges that stroke can present on the road to recovery.  They both are truly inspiring in the way they approach life, setting goals and making the most of opportunities, so that they can not just survive but also thrive!

“Our teams of staff and volunteers are here for people, across the country, to provide that support to get back to the things you enjoy.  If you are someone you know needs help, call Chest Heart & Stoke Scotland’s Advice Line and start your recovery, freephone 0800 801 0899.”

If you’d like to show your support for Troy please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/strokecyclechallenge

Demand for our services has almost doubled. Because of the pandemic we are losing money.

People are scared and isolated just now. Your donation can make all the difference – and help them really live.

Donate