Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 13:37 UK

'Music helped me recover from stroke'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Cyril Merle with Honour Blackman
Cyril was given his award by Honor Blackman
Just four days after his wife's funeral following her death from a stroke, Cyril Merle had a massive stroke himself.

The 86-year-old was paralysed down the left side of his body and had difficulty speaking and eating.

He needed daily physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and gym workouts during the nine months he spent recovering in his local hospital in Horsham, West Sussex, before being allowed home.

Now - aged 91 - Cyril is fully recovered and able to do even more than he was before the stroke. He credits his love of music for helping speed up his recovery.

Keeping the brain active

He says music acted as a strong motivating force to getting mobile again.

And he started tea dancing even though he had preciously been described as a "rotten dancer" by his wife. He says that now he dances better than he walks.

I would tell anyone else who has had a stroke like me to get involved with music
Cyril Merle

Cyril also took up playing the keyboard, after 30 years of not playing, and says this has helped keep his mind active and given him a motivation to keep active.

He even plays at sing-songs for other residents in the ex-service personnel home where he now lives.

"When I had the stroke I could not even stand," he said.

"Now I can do everything I could before and even more so.

"I think the music helped me. I can dance better than I can walk," he said.

"I would tell anyone else who has had a stroke like me, to get involved with music."

Cyril has been rewarded for his efforts by the Stroke Association, who gave him the over-65s prize in their annual awards.

Getting fitter

Pam Simpson, activities co-ordinator at the home where he now lives, said Cyril had shown great fortitude.

"He made good progress after his stroke and after two months was able to walk with a belt round his waist and held by his physios.

"He did not rely on a stick or a zimmer frame - just his absolute determination to get back his mobility and independence.

Worthy winner

Jon Barrick, chief executive at the Stroke Association said; "Stroke can affect anyone at any age, and also has an impact on families, carers and health care professionals.

"Cyril has shown tremendous courage in rebuilding his life after a stroke."

Occupational therapy. Photo Credit: AJ Photo/Science Photo Library
Occupational therapy can aid stroke recovery

Around a million people in the UK are living with the effects of stroke.

Dr Anthony Rudd, a stroke expert at King's College, London, said that although age was not necessarily a factor in how well a person recovered, that the older the patient the more likely it was that they have additional medical problems.

"What is important is that older people often have other medical problems such as arthritis and cognitive problems that makes it more difficult for them to get going again.

"We do see recoveries like this very regularly, but they do require a lot of hard work and - to a large extent - luck in terms of how much brain damage there was caused by the stroke."

Boy who had stroke speaks again
11 Jun 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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