She’s an inspiration - A Morecambe mum’s fightback after a stroke
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 July 2020
A busy Morecambe mum is rebuilding her life after a stroke left her with a 50-50 chance of survival.
Catherine Erdal is a busy woman. When she can, she enjoys swimming, walking, gardening, climbing and hiking.
But there was a time when the former teacher and NHS manager feared she may never again be able to do any of the things she loves.
In 2012, the mum-of-two suffered a stroke which transformed her life completely.
Her daughter found her lying unconscious on the floor of her home. She was rushed to hospital and placed in a coma where she was given a 50% chance of survival.
She spent six months in hospitals and trauma centres, in and out of consciousness and in a confused state.
The terrifying experience left Catherine, who lives at Bare near Morecambe, brain damaged. She was paralysed down her right hand side and developed a condition called aphasia, meaning she struggles to use and express language.
‘I had collapsed suddenly and without warning. It was very fortunate that my daughter was with me at the time, she quickly called for an ambulance,’ says Catherine, who is now 59.
‘I spent months of going in and out of consciousness, long periods of sleep and short periods of being awake. It was the most frightening experience of my life, I was in shock and felt so vulnerable for so long.
‘I was filled with complete and utter joy that I had survived,’ she said. ‘But my life has changed so much since then and I’m now so dependent on my friends and family. It’s been a slow and long journey to try and rebuild my life.’
Alongside severe mobility issues and fatigue, Catherine now struggles with her speech but was fortunate enough to access rehabilitation for a short while from the Acquired Brain Injury Service after her stroke and has since been working on strategies to help with her speech.
‘As I’ve continued with my physical and speech exercises, my hard work has paid off. I’ve seen some great improvements in my speech and mobility as time’s gone on,’ she said.
Throughout her recovery Catherine has been helped and supported by Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay, a voluntary group which supports survivors of brain injury, their families and their carers.
‘It’s thanks to the incredible NHS, my family, my friends, my helpers, my community and my faith, but above all it is thanks to Headway that despite still having limited mobility, dexterity and speech, I am active and busy,’ Catherine said.
‘Without them all I wouldn’t be able to do the swimming, walking, gardening, rock wall climbing, hiking, shopping and other activities I enjoy. Some of them, of course, require someone to help me and I am so very grateful to those dedicated people in my life who provide the help I need.
‘I met a lot of friends at Headway and I felt as though they understood what I was going through. It’s through Headway that I got to spend some time at the Calvert Trust – an organisation specialising in outdoor holidays for disabled people – which was a wonderful and inspiring experience for me.’
In the last two years, Catherine has lost three stone with the help of Weight Watchers and while still working hard at overcoming her own difficulties in communication and mobility, she now wants to find some way to use her experience to help others.
She said: ‘I’ve experienced some good and bad responses to my disability. I want to help others because I know exactly what people with a brain injury have to cope with which means it’s easy for me to relate.’
Can you help?
Brain injuries can occur as a result of illness or injury and the effects can have a devastating effect on the lives of the individual and their families. Once discharged from hospital or residential care, the reality of life back in the community can be daunting, lonely and frightening for survivors and their families.
Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay are now recruiting volunteers to help with a variety of activities. Lockdown meant fundraising events were cancelled and they need help to raise funds. To make a donation, fundraise or volunteer go online to headwaylancaster.com
Kate Charles, Director at the Stroke Association, said: ‘A stroke is a medical emergency and it’s essential you call 999 straight away if you suspect you or someone around you is having a stroke, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. We urge people to familiarise themselves with the Act FAST acronym and recognise the signs of a stroke: Face, Arms, Speech and Time (to call an ambulance).
‘When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you. That’s because a stroke happens in the brain, the control centre for who we are and what we can do. Recovery is tough, but with the right specialist support and a ton of courage and determination, the brain can adapt.
For more information about stroke visit stroke.org.uk or call the helpline on 0303 303 3100.’