Community support in a stroke 'hotspot'

Elise Pascoe and John Kelly have praised the Kiama community who have rallied around them in the wake of John's stroke. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

Elise Pascoe and John Kelly have praised the Kiama community who have rallied around them in the wake of John's stroke. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

ALTHOUGH they have much hard work ahead of them, a Kiama couple have praised their community for its support following a recent stroke. 

According to a new report, the Gilmore electorate is among the state’s top-five stroke hot spots. 

The National Stroke Foundation-issued report revealed there are 3718 stroke survivors living in Gilmore.

The electorate is NSW’s second-worst for the condition.

The report indicates about 450 strokes and 100 deaths from stroke are expected in Gilmore in 2014.

Seventy-four-year-old Kiama resident John Kelly had a haemorrhage in late February. 

The Kiama Show Society committee member led a healthy lifestyle, aside from two blood clots in a lung 18 months ago. The stroke resulted in him losing peripheral vision on his right side (called quadrantanopia), and his speech has been affected. 

The stroke’s cause is unknown. 

His wife Elise Pascoe said the current outlook was “a breeze after what we went through at the beginning”. 

“The beginning was terrible, because it’s a terrible shock, it’s a life threatening illness, (so) was very worrying, and very emotional for me. 

“We have a fantastic GP, and she has been looking after John, with my help.

“When we got back to carer’s help, I was unable to get any help (from) the social worker at both hospitals, and I was told each time it was because John had no physical effects. 

“He could walk, he could shower, dress himself; get his clothes on in a system… So it was me that really needed help, and I couldn’t get any anywhere from the government, or any help at all. 

“So we ended up employing a friend to help me in the house, and that relieved me and gave me a bit more relief.”

Post-stroke, he spent time in the emergency department at Wollongong Hospital, followed by Port Kembla. 

“He was cared for very well at both hospitals,” Mrs Pascoe said. 

Mrs Pascoe said the quadrantanopia can’t be corrected, but operations can help with his vision. 

“The most important thing at this stage (is) he’s learned to read, write, to think, although some of his memories are very difficult still,” she said. 

Mrs Pascoe said the community had rallied to support them.

“People in this wonderful, caring, close Kiama community… People came out of the woodwork, they were absolutely amazing. 

“One of the local cafés turned up with an esky with about eight days’ of food, it was just fantastic. 

“Neighbours came in and offered help.”

Friends have also driven them to hospital appointments. 

“So, what would we do without friends?” she said. 

“The government can only do so much. 

“The money that is available is not for people like John, who can do everything but talk properly.”

Mrs Pascoe believed they were past the worst.

Mr Kelly’s speech is improving, and has been downloading speech therapy apps for his iPad. 

He’s returned to playing tennis recently, although laughs about needing to work on his game.

“To balance those two medical needs, neurology and haematology into the future, to try to get John’s sight better so he’s allowed to drive again (is the goal),” Mrs Pascoe said. 

“He’s lost his freedom. 

“Until a week ago he couldn’t go anywhere on his own; not even walk around the block. 

“And because he’s had one little seizure post-stroke, he’s on a drug which probably won’t allow him to drive. 

“So down the track we hope he’ll be able to drive again, but it’s not at all positive.

“John and I are very confident that he will continue to make progress with the help of families, friends and the local community.”

Mrs Pascoe suggested it may potentially be the ageing demographics of parts of Gilmore that had partially resulted in such a high ranking nationally. 

NSW National Stroke Foundation executive officer Greg Cantwell said the state’s greatest risk factors for stroke included high cholesterol (26 per cent of the population), high blood pressure (18 per cent) and physical inactivity (45 per cent).

He said the disease placed significant demands on health services, families and the community throughout the country. 

He told Fairfax Media the report identified where stroke was having the biggest impact and where stroke survivor support was most vital.

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