Tim Clark has survived three life-changing strokes in 2017 aged just 36. He was supported in his recovery by Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS), Scotland’s leading health charity.
Now Tim, from Bridge of Weir, works as a Peer Support Coordinator for the charity, is urging people across the country to donate to CHSS’ Summer Fundraising Appeal with the hope of raising vital funds to support yet more people living with chest, heart and stroke conditions to live their lives to the full.
Sharing his experience, Tim who is married to Jen and is dad to Rebecca, nine, and seven-year-old Joshua said: “Devastatingly, out of the blue at the age of 36, my life changed forever. I suffered three strokes within three days.
“The first stroke happened when I was playing football, but I didn’t know it at the time, it just felt like I had a headache.
“The following day I had picked my toddler son up from nursery and carried him home on my shoulders. It was such a nice day that I lit the barbecue so we could enjoy a family dinner outside that evening. Then everything changed. My wife and children watched me have a stroke right in front of them.
Photo: Tim in hospital following his third stroke
“As we waited for the ambulance, not sure what was happening, I sat close to the children. I was scared and I was crying. It was the most terrifying moment of my life.
“The third stroke was in hospital, and it was a massive stroke that nearly took my life. I was rushed into emergency surgery to have an operation on my brain to release the pressure on my skull. They had to take part of my skull away. The surgeon said I wasn’t expected to survive.
“Thankfully I survived, but from that point on my battle to recover began. The stroke left me with left-sided paralysis. I couldn’t do anything for myself. Part of my head was missing, and I was a mess. Rebecca, my daughter, was three at the time. She is a real daddy’s girl but was frightened about coming to see me in case she didn’t recognise me.
“When my wife Jen brought her in, Rebecca was very scared of me because of how I looked, eventually she reached for my hand. I can’t tell you much it meant to have her hold my hand. In a single moment I found so much strength and the drive to get better.
“I was in hospital for three whole months. I had to learn everything again – how to swallow, how to sit, how to stand and eventually how to walk again.
“My mind was affected, too. I struggled with my memory and my emotions, and I suffered from terrible stroke fatigue. I had gone from an active family man to someone who simply couldn’t do anything at all.
“My progress was painfully slow, but the thought of fighting back for my family and getting home to them meant I wasn’t going to give up. After three months, I was so proud to be able to walk out of hospital with a stick and return home.
Photo: Tim leaving hospital three months on
“But my recovery was only just beginning. And life was very different for us all. My wife Jen became pretty much a single parent as well as my carer, but she has been amazing. Her love kept us all together as a family and I honestly am so blessed to have her by my side.
“Although it was great to be home from hospital, the slow grind of painful physio and the dawning realisation of how much I had lost really hit home. It gradually wore down my usual optimistic outlook on life.
“It was hard to accept that I had come so close to leaving my family and friends. But I didn’t. I survived. The time when you leave hospital can be the most lonely, isolating and difficult of times. That is when Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland come in. Because of generous donors, they can be there to provide such special support and help when it is needed most.
“I now work for this wonderful charity so I can share my experience of stroke and help people like me. I want my experience to mean something and to help others.
“If there is one thing I have learned it is that it doesn’t matter how healthy, fit or young you are: when stroke strikes, it can devastate lives in an instant. I’m now progressing all the time with my amazing family and friends supporting me on this journey, and I want to make sure that other stroke survivors in Scotland can get help and support, too.”
Lawrence Cowan, Director of Income Generation at Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland said: “Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland is there to make sure no one has to recover alone. The work we do is only possible thanks to our donors and fundraisers.
“Every day 26 people in Scotland have a stroke. Your donation is the difference between someone just surviving and really living. It means people like Tim and so many others get the help they need when it is needed the most.”
To donate to Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Summer Fundraising Appeal visit www.chss.org.uk