At the age of 31, in the prime of his life, the last thing Glen Riley thought would put him out of action was a stroke.
The Sinclair Wetlands conservationist had a stroke two years ago after being hit in the neck by a squash ball during a squash tournament in Oamaru.
“The ball hit my carotid artery. It dissected the artery and sent a blood clot to my brain.”
Doctors later told him he was lucky not to have been killed outright, like Australian cricketer Phil Hughes, who died in similar circumstances during a cricket match in 2014.
Initially, Mr Riley did not realise how injured he was.
He said he just felt sore, so he went to a nearby supermarket to get painkillers.
“I didn’t know what was happening to me.
“I was trying to put the items in my basket and I kept dropping them on the floor.
“I thought there was items or the basket, not realising I couldn’t co-ordinate my hands to put stuff in the basket.
“That was the start of the deterioration process.”
Supermarket staff noticed he looked confused and was struggling, so they called an ambulance.
It wasn’t until later, after being transferred to Dunedin Hospital, Mr Riley learned the blow to his neck had caused a stroke.
“The worst thing was I lost the ability to speak – I couldn’t speak at all – and I lost complete co-ordination on my right side.”
Fortunately, he has made a good recovery. But as with all head injuries, his recovery is ongoing.
“I am fully recovered in the fact that I can talk normally, I can walk normally, I can use my right side, but neuro-fatigue can still pop up at unknown times.”
The injury had left him feeling grateful to be alive and he did not take life for granted.
“This is my two-year anniversary and I feel really lucky to have had such a good recovery,” Mr Riley said.
To celebrate the anniversary, almost to the day, he will run the 21km Dunedin Half Marathon on Sunday.
“This is another wee milestone for me. The first one was being able to say my name – that was a breakthrough.
“Another was being able to go to the toilet by myself .. make my own lunch, do my dishes.”
While running the half-marathon, he hopes to raise awareness of strokes and funds for the Stroke Foundation.
“The foundation does a wonderful job of helping people who are affected in life after a stroke.
“I didn’t understand stroke beforehand, and of course I never thought it would happen to me at 31.
“I think it’s important people know the effects of it, how serious it can be and that it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or health.”