There IS life after stroke, says chairman of Dunmow group

Some of the members of Dunmow & District Stroke Association including chairman Phil Milne (front lef

Some of the members of Dunmow & District Stroke Association including chairman Phil Milne (front left) and physio Sandra Russell (centre at back). - Credit: Archant

AN exercise and support group for people who have suffered stroke is taking a holistic approach to recovery.

Dunmow & District Stroke Association is well-established. In its 17 years it has given support – both physically and emotionally – to hundreds of people.

Phil Milne, Dunmow’s recently-elected town mayor, suffered a stroke 15 years ago. He picked the group as his chosen charity, partly to raise funds but also awareness, and he emphasised the importance the group plays in the community.

“It’s easy for stroke victims to feel it’s the end of the world but this group shows there is life after a stroke,” he said.

“I was in hospital for six weeks and in a wheelchair for a year. Things are different now, of course, but you re-evaluate what is important and what is not.

“I am very fortunate to have a very supportive wife and family. Some people [who have had a stroke] feel there is no-one worse off than them. But they come here and see people who are, and who get better. That hope and encouragement is essential.”

Cllr Milne said the group, which meets every Tuesday at Banks Court on Chequers Lane, owes much to its “dedicated and wonderful” band of volunteers, who week by week give support in so many ways.

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They guide members – who have to be referred to the group via a GP or doctor – through a range of seated exercises to improve mobility and importantly, says Cllr Milne, maintenance.

“Attending [this group] is part of the rehabilitation process but mainly it is about physical maintenance,” he points out. “The stroke attacks part of the brain but there are sufficient cells that can be re-programmed – but it needs to be maintained. You can easily fall back.

“Working together in a group makes it easier, as a support mechanism.”

A recent report from the Stroke Association suggests that stroke survivors are leaving hospital ‘depressed, stressed and unable to cope emotionally’. The emotional impact is overlooked.

In Dunmow, though, the group goes some way to redressing the balance.

Physiotherapist Sandra Russell has been leading the group’s exercises since 1997 – she believes the group is something Dunmow should be proud of.

“It so vitally important,” she says. “The aim is to encourage the client’s independence, to keep them moving. Within a group setting they can support each other emotionally.

“It is an hour’s exercise a week they wouldn’t get anywhere else – and it is one of the only stroke groups in the county with an exercise component.

“We try to think of it as holistically: the support, the physical component and the emotional side as well.”

? Dunmow & District Stroke Association’s funding comes from grants, legacies and fund-raising events. The next fund-raiser is the Mayor’s Strawberry Tea Dance, with live music and entertainment and, of course, a strawberry tea. The event is on July 5, from 2.30-5.30pm, in the Foakes Hall. Tickets are £7.50, available from Great Dunmow Town Council (01371 872406).