Jason Parker struggled to cope with it after his illness when his little pet – Ralph – gave him a moment of hope.
It came when Jason was able to run again with the three year old Cockapoo for the first time.
It was a wonderful milestone for Jason on his road to recovery from a stroke – a tennis ball-sized hemorrhage in his brain – raking leaves in the garden of his home in Bolney in December 2019.
Jason Parker with Ralph
“I suddenly felt tired and thought I needed a break,” Jason said. “Then I realized that I couldn’t tell my left leg to kick a soccer ball. Then I fell and found that I couldn’t use my left arm either.
“My throat contracted. I had to crawl back to the house with one arm to call for help.
“My wife Victoria, a doctor, realized it was a stroke.
“I was rushed to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton by ambulance within 20 minutes of the stroke, admitted to the hyperacute stroke unit, and had a brain scan within an hour.
Jason Parker learns to walk again after suffering a devastating stroke
“I was not given any medication other than a drip of saline and then medication to reduce the panic attacks I was experiencing.
“I had a tennis ball-sized hemorrhage in my brain. I couldn’t sit, stand, walk, hug. “
It was two weeks before doctors could see on a CT scan that the bleeding was caused by arterial venous malformation, or AVM, a naturally occurring corner of blood vessels in the brain that had ruptured.
Jason shares his story to support the Stroke Association’s Hope After Stroke campaign.
“My post-stroke hope was to be able to walk Ralph and feel like I could do normal things again, like riding my bike,” said Jason.
“My first time on a bike was just to get the newspaper, but it felt good to feel the wind on my face again.
“I was 45 when I had my stroke, so it can happen at any age and to anyone who is healthy.
“I want people to understand how heavy the mental side is, what exhaustion – and not tiredness – actually is, and how you can progress quickly with determination and the right support.
“The hospital care was excellent, but once I was in the ward it was very difficult to access. I was almost left to my own devices, unable to walk.
“My mental health was terrible, but it was mostly ignored. I had to finance the rehab physio myself and organize counseling. Care was meant well, but inadequate.
“I would say I made very rapid progress in the first six months, learned to walk again, etc.
“The pace of recovery then slowed down and became frustrating, but it still improves with repetition and stubbornness. You have to stay tuned, it’s really tough. “
After three months in the hospital, Jason returned home to recover with his wife Victoria and children Annabel, George, and Scarlett.
Another four months later he gradually returned to work as a healthcare partner at KPMG, where he has now been working full-time for a year.
“It’s strange to think that I’ll always have a cavity in my brain and that such a small blood vessel can do so much damage,” said Jason.
The Stroke Association urges those who can to donate today to help them reach more stroke survivors and provide them with the technical support they need to find hope and advance their recovery. Visit Stroke.org.uk/hopeafterstroke