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Last Updated: Friday, 16 June 2006, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
'I was like a baby after stroke'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Barbara Hobbs
Barbara had to re-learn basic skills
When Barbara Hobbs had a stoke in her early 50s, she felt she had reverted to babyhood.

She was unable to walk, speak, control her bladder or even swallow properly.

The former nurse remembers lying in her hospital bed, unable to communicate properly with those around her, and vowing to fight her way back to recovery.

Using her knowledge of child development, she decided to re-learn all her life skills from the beginning, like a child.

Study

She got her family to bring her children's books and videos so she could re-learn the spoken and written word, and colouring books to help teach her pen control.

As she grew more mobile, she learnt to crawl, then to stand and eventually to walk. Two years later she was walking unaided.

I really hope that whatever I have been through I have managed to turn it into a positive
Barbara Hobbs

During her recovery period Barbara, who still works as a complementary therapist, researched everything she could about the causes of strokes and ways to aid recovery.

And she treated herself with essential oils and reflexology.

Now she has written a book called 'We don't cry aloud', to help inspire and aid others who have had stokes.

To recognise her tremendous achievements, the Stroke Association has presented Barbara, from East Yorkshire, with its 'Adult Courage Award'.

Barbara said that, despite her nursing training, she had known little about strokes. And when she had three transient ischaemic attacks (mini strokes) nobody had warned her of the danger.

"But when I had another it felt different, it turned out to be a stroke. I knew I had to telephone 999. But I could not speak.

"I knew I had to get outside the house and the police had managed to trace my call and got an ambulance to take me to hospital.

"When I got to the hospital I managed to tell them my name, and then I had a massive stroke."

While she was unconscious, nurses played Barbara her favourite Joe Longthorne tapes and she remembers thinking she was actually at one of his concerts.

Communication

Because she had lost all power of speech and knowledge of words, communication was slow and frustrating.

Barbara remembers that for some time all she could say was 'bus'.

And recalls shouting 'bus, bus, bus' angrily at the nurses when they failed to realise that she wanted a cup of coffee.

"I could not speak and I was in one heck of a mess."

But Barbara was determined to get back her independence.

After her release from hospital she went to live with one of her daughters, but knew she had to live alone to really make strides in her recovery.

Even filling a kettle was too difficult for her initially as it was too heavy to hold, but Barbara learnt how to fill it cup by cup.

Joe Longthorne
Joe's music helped Barbara's recovery

Taking her first shopping trip alone was another milestone, as many of her words were still muddled or missing.

"I can remember my first shopping trip into York, to get a pair of hair tongs.

"I could not remember the word for tongs and so I had to mime it.

"The staff thought I was mad and couldn't wait to get me out of the shop.

"I didn't understand money so I just had to hand them my purse and gesture for them to take it."

Skills

Gradually, however, Barbara re-learnt her skills and now has accomplished many things she had never done before, such as using a computer and sending emails - and penning her first book.

"I feel so proud of this book," she said. "And I really hope that whatever I have been through I have managed to turn it into a positive.

"I have now completely changed my lifestyle. I used to eat very badly, but now my diet is much better. I have fruit and vegetables and everything is organic.

"I used to be one of those people who thought it would never happen to me, and I was not stroke aware.

"Through my book I hope to make people aware of my experiences and work to help other people."

In his preface to her book her consultant Dr Louis Loizou, consultant and senior lecturer in neurology at Pinderfield Hospital, Wakefield, praises both the book and Barbara's determination.

"Barbara helped herself more than we helped her, and she showed enormous fortitude and great spirit.

"Barbara achieved virtually a full recovery, and has been able to return to work and has become a model for the management of the young stroke victims.

"In her book, Barbara describes her experiences very graphically and accurately.

"There are sections in the book which refer to the science and neurology of stroke and other sections which refer to advice on various treatments available to stroke victims.

"This book is readable. It comes out of personal experience and will be very useful for people who have had strokes and those in the families who care for them," said Dr Loizou.

Inspiration

Joe Korner, director of communications at the Stroke Association said Barbara was a worthy recipient of their award.

"Her progress has been remarkable and she is a true inspiration to the 150,000 people who have a stroke each year.

"I am delighted that Barbara has been awarded an award, and I hope that she will help to show that for so many there is 'life after stroke'."




SEE ALSO
Man Utd owner has second stroke
19 May 06 |  Man Utd
Stroke patients getting younger
18 Apr 06 |  Cornwall
Community stroke care 'failing'
06 Mar 06 |  Health

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