Jo was 22 when a stroke changed her life forever. This happened without warning, whilst she was cycling in the Highlands.
Her stroke affected her ability to speak, to read and write, to communicate with her loved ones and to fully make sense of the world around her.
“For the first few weeks I didn’t understand what was going on. I think my family and friends found the first few days particularly traumatic.”
Jo spent the next three years rebuilding her life. She spent the first year having speech therapy so that she could fully communicate with those around her. However, a further blow came just six months into recovery, when she was diagnosed as suffering with post-traumatic stress as a result of the stroke.
In the following years, at a time when her friends were starting their careers, meeting new friends and living carefree lives, Jo was in and out of hospital and receiving counselling. Against all the odds, she returned to full-time work 14 months after her stroke and was given the “all clear” after three years.
Incredibly, she and her husband ran the London Marathon in April 2018, raising £8,652 for Brain Research UK.
Jo will never forget how her stroke changed her life nor the months of speech therapy and the years rebuilding her life.
Jo qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist and had been working in the NHS for 11 months before her stroke. Following recovery, Jo completed a Masters degree in Neurological Physiotherapy in Adult Neurology and now runs her own small independent practice helping others with neurological conditions regain or maintain their ability and independence. She delivers several talks locally and nationally each year to Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease charities and support groups
“When you have a stroke, your world changes and you feel like it is at an end. I want to help encourage others with neurological conditions that their goals can still be achieved.”
This inspirational lady is also a qualified Pilates teacher. Jo’s main issues post-stroke were all related to speech, reading and writing; her muscle weakness and tone changes were more subtle as they didn’t restrict any normal sports or daily activity. She did however frequently experience neck and back pain, often resulting in time off work. Her physiotherapy colleagues diagnosed her muscular problems and recommended Pilates to start to strengthen and re-balance her body.
After the birth of her first child, Jo decided to try Pilates classes; after just the first class she had to adjust the mirrors in her car as it had made such a difference to her posture and body awareness. Before long she was attending three classes each week and her back and neck issues dramatically reduced in frequency and intensity; and she absolutely loved the discipline! Four years later, on returning to work after the birth of her second child, Jo decided to train to teach Pilates to help her own neurological patients in their recovery. With her passion in Pilates and knowing first hand how it can assist with neurological rehabilitation, Jo then spent six years lecturing across the UK on “Pilates and Neurology” for the Australian Physiotherapy & Pilates Institute.
At present, Jo’s physiotherapy practice continues to deliver 15 Pilates classes live online each week to support her patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. On 26th April 2020 her 2.6 challenge involved nearly 40 participants practicing 26 Pilates exercises for 2.6 minutes each via Zoom, helping to raise additional funds for Brain Research UK.
Whilst thankfully more people are surviving stroke than ever before, this means that an increasing number of people are living with the after-effects of stroke. There are an estimated 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK today, two thirds of whom leave hospital with a disability.
The range of disabilities associated with stroke is greater than for any other condition and includes limb weakness, visual problems, and language and communication problems.
We are funding research to advance understanding of how to repair the damage caused by stroke, to facilitate recovery and improve the lives of those affected.
We are funding PhD student Haya Akkad, who is carrying out research aimed at improving recovery in patients who, like Jo, experience speech and language impairments after stroke. She is using a form of non-invasive brain stimulation in combination with language training to boost recovery. Find out more about Haya's research and our other stroke projects