Anyone familiar with Dr Sara Payne’s passionate, forthright and successful campaigning work, would not be surprised to learn that her talk at Naidex 2016 drew a significant crowd. Speaking with searing honesty, warmth and humour, Sara delivered a key note speech revealing her “Stroke Journey”, which began 6 years ago when she was working as the first ever Victims Champion.
She said, “In the space of one day, my family lost a mother and a wife. I woke up having had a stroke and the person that I had been had disappeared overnight. Everyone thought that I should be grateful to be alive, but I wanted to do more than just breathe – I wanted to live, to move, to cook, to fold my own laundry – all the everyday things that had just taken for granted.”
Sara gave a very personal account of her experience both in hospital including having woken up from a coma in a geriatric ward distressed to discover that nurses had had to cut off her long hair making her feel “less female”. Again, when Sara went home, she felt like a visitor in her own home, and she cried for three days. In her own words; “Stroke is for old people, not for 40 year olds.”
Her road to rehabilitation was a long and frustrating one, with the stoke affecting both her movement and memory, significantly hampering her ability to work and communicate with her family. Sleep became an escape for Sara, as she says, “I could move in my dreams – chop vegetables, walk up the stairs, fold my laundry -all the things I was desperate to do gain.”
Determined to regain her confidence, Sara sought help and gained strength from those around her, including her dear friend who patiently taught her day in, day out how to write an email again. Sara also worked with a carer who helped her to carry out housework (to her instructions!), as she was determined that her young daughter (5 years old at the time of her stroke) would not become her main carer. Despite these positive changes, Sara was still frustrated by her mobility and found the rehabilitation exercises set for her painstaking and tiring. This led Sara to look for aids that would help her regain some independence – she said “I can’t do nothing anymore, I don’t just want to accept the stroke, I need to fight it.” She was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Shapemaster® Power Assisted Exercise, which she uses daily in short, 10 minute sessions to help regain mobility and independence. Since working with this revolutionary assistive machinery, Sara is now able to stand for much longer periods, feels physically much stronger and more confident to engage in life.”
Wrapping up her awe-inspiring talk to Naidex, Sara said, “I can now imagine the day that I can walk down the street again without my stick and maybe even take my grandchildren to the park – that is something that I would love to do.”
Typically, Sara Payne doesn’t limit herself there though – working with the designers at Shapemaster® to design a specially adapted bike, her goal is to complete a London to Paris cycle ride. Hearing Sara talk, you just know that she will do everything she can to make that happen.