I enter a room filled with people like me, where our brains have lost their brakes


I walk into a community hall room that has been mostly used for crafts classes, filled with large tables and plastic-back seats.

It’s a sort of alcohol anonymous meeting for people who’ve had strokes put on by The Stroke Association. The idea is to get together for mutual support, compare damage done to our physical selves, exchange treatment horror stories and test our brain cells left or right. When a brain fails to respond to the controls as happens a lot with stroke, life suddenly is in free fall. You have to be taught how to apply the brakes.

£2 pounds please to cover the costs.

And you don’t have to say: ‘I have had a stroke’ as a form of confession – it goes without saying.

I was introduced to the group feeling like my defects – my lack of brakes – were on parade, until I met individuals who made feel my defects were just a badge to be worn to be a part of the group.

One woman came with a carer – I recognised her as being in the hospital when I was. She was in the ‘making tea’ classes we had to endure as part of our bizarre ritual to prove the people in white uniforms (rehab) we could take care of ourselves.

Some had walking canes to help with the muscles affected by stroke; others in wheelchairs for muscles that were unable to be controlled because of the stroke. Some could read, others could not. Almost every one had problems with speech in one form or another. One woman came with a vocaliser, an electronic device that audibly comes up with letter and words when she can’t find any. Like having a pocket Stephen Hawking with you.

In this situation you tend to self-assess, as I did, on the optimistic side – what you thought was a terrible twist of fate visited upon you, has a different scale of devastation when compared to others.

One person who I remember talking to was Jerry who spoke eloquently I thought and I assumed was part of The Stroke Association team, but five minutes into the conversation he mentioned that he had had a stroke five years ago. He had been a lecturer at a university. I managed to grizzle the words out though my lips commenting on his speech. He understood. He said he still gets memory loss and so people have to speak in short sentences or he gets brain overloads.

Note to myself: if I can speak like Jerry in five years I’ll become a voice-over artist specialising film trailers:

(Deep voice)

One day…

The brain didn’t run…

The way it used to.

Then…

I…

Forget…

What…

Comes…

Next.

Aphasia – the coming of the brain fart.

Coming soon at a multiplex theatre near you.

Catherine was right: the meetings were good for my speech.

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5 responses to “I enter a room filled with people like me, where our brains have lost their brakes

  1. What an interesting get together it must have been. It must have been nice not having to explain what happens and have everyone get what you have been through. I felt that way when I was with people who knew me well or who had a parent die young when my Dad died. It was nice not having to explain what happened or how much he meant to me over and over.

  2. The problem I’ve always had with the support groups I’ve been too is I’m the youngest by some stretch and the most disabled (by miles) and this depresses the Hell out of me OR if I go to a’young brain injuries’ support group I’m the youngest and I don’t relate to anyone – maybe I’m just a c***……… Anyway, not a positive outcome.

  3. Gee.. I am really so sorry it didn’t work out for you.

    I have about 3 people close to your age here. It is hard to keep that group for young people going though, because some are getting on with their lives and others have a similar experience to you. It really is not a “club” anyone ever hoped to join. I wish I could just round you all up at the same time! We do have a 20 something year old who is willing to go visit younger people or just chat on the phone or by email. I just talked to a lady on the phone two weeks ago; a young mom with really young kids who really wants people her own age to be with.

    One further kind of group you could check out would be a brain injury group. Strokes are a form or brain injury so you would be welcomed, but those groups, at least around here, have a greater number of people with traumatic injuries so… more younger people injured from sports and automobile accidents. Just a thought.

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