Telegraph Health: ‘My stroke came out of the blue - and I’m still dealing with its impact’

My stroke came out of the blue. I was incredibly busy but enjoying life, then one day I started to feel strange. I couldn’t concentrate, I didn’t feel like my speech was right and I couldn’t control or kick a ball. After a few days I went to the GP, who referred me to the stroke unit at the hospital to be checked.

My wife and I went to the hospital the next morning. I remember it was strange to be there on a Saturday morning as it was very quiet and I should have been playing football. I had a scan to check my arteries, which was normal, however the brain scan showed problems. A doctor showed me a picture of my brain with a lot of white spaces on it.

The largest area was on one side of the brain, where my speech centres were and on the other side a smaller area where my mobility functions were. I was told I’d have to stay in hospital for a couple of days for monitoring because of what they had found. The staff were exceptional, but busy, and the other patients were quite a lot older so after a weekend in hospital I was happy to go home. That was when the impact hit me.

My writing had become almost illegible, I couldn’t say what I wanted and I began stuttering. While I was lucky I hadn’t lost the use of a limb, I found that I couldn’t co-ordinate kicking a football, which was hard as playing football is one of my biggest passions in life. I struggled and for a few weeks hid away.

However I’m a resilient character. There was an excellent ‘in home’ stroke support team who worked with me on my speech, writing and physiotherapy. They provided advice and support but I was told it could take up to two years, if at all, to get my co-ordination back to be able to play football like I did.

After 10 weeks I went back to work and a year on I’m slowly improving. My writing is still awful unless I go very slowly and concentrate hard. My speech is OK in general conversation, but I have times where I can’t find the words to say what I want and still stutter occasionally.

There was no warning that I was going to have a stroke. I’m relatively young, I was pretty fit playing football three times a week, as well as going to the gym. I don’t smoke and drink moderately on a weekend.

What is most frustrating is that I’m still the same person as before, it just takes a lot more effort to do what I always did. Myself and my son, Iain, together with our friend, Neil, organise an annual event called the Sheffield Fans Derby, an 11-a-side football match played between fans of Sheffield Wednesday and United.

The event started out in 2008 as a way of raising money for Sports Relief as a one off match between friends who supported the two clubs, but has since grown to become an annual event that’s raised thousands for several different charities.

This year’s match marked our tenth year. We have worked with Sheffield Hospitals Charity on several appeals over these years. There is so much more behind the charity than people realise, including lots of different appeals supporting patients of a wide range different ages and backgrounds.

We have already raised more than £19,700 for the charity over the last six years - from a total of £37,000 raised over nine years for other local charities - and from this year we have decided to make it our nominated charity of choice to help continue its work to enhance patient services across the city.

After being diagnosed with my stroke, this year’s funds will go to enhance patient services at the stroke unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

When the match took place, as a lifelong Wednesdayite I was rooting for us - and this year we get to claim the city’s bragging rights. After a nail-biting finish which ended in penalties, we claimed 5 – 3 victory against the Blades.

n The main symptoms of a stroke follow the acronym FAST - facial and arm weakness, slurred speech and time. These are not the only signs - but if any of them are spotted, call 999.