‘Then I realised I couldn’t move’

Beanie up .. Pulling on beanies outside Community House in central Dunedin (from left) are Stroke Foundation community stroke advisers Kathy Clarke and Judith Hyslop and stroke survivor Robin Thomas, all of Dunedin. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A Dunedin stroke survivor feels lucky to be alive to tell his tale.

Four years ago, Robin Thomas (68) was getting out of his ute to walk his dog with a friend when he felt lightheaded and experienced a slight tingling in his arm.

“I had a hold of my ute but it felt like it was moving away from me, even though I had a hold of it. It felt like a earthquake.”

He struggled to comprehend what was happening for about 10 minutes.

After determining the light-headedness was likely due to skipping a meal, he told his mate the walk could wait, as he was heading home for a meal and a sleep.

His friend encouraged him to visit the urgent doctors.

At the medical practice, late on a Monday night, the receptionist gave him a form to fill out, which he struggled to read.

Then when she asked him to pay, he took out his eftpos card but forgot how to use it. When he went to ask her how, he was unable to speak.

“Then I realised I couldn’t move.”

When the receptionist rushed away to get a doctor, he started to lose his peripheral vision.

The next words he heard was a doctor saying “we have a stroke in progress”.

He was rushed to Dunedin Hospital in a wheelchair and treated immediately with clot-busting medication.

“I was very lucky.”

He urged people, especially men, to visit a doctor if they felt unwell “because if you don’t, the results can be catastrophic”.

“This can happen to any bugger, at any age.”

His doctor told him if he had gone home for a sleep, he would have died.

“It’s just as well I acted – that’s why I’m prepared to talk to anyone about it.”

Being able to talk about his stroke took time because he feared the stigma of the brain attack.

“Telling someone I had a stroke was the hardest bit.”

The recovery was also emotional as he had to come to terms with was losing his driver’s licence for a month.

“I live alone so that’s significant.”

He urged people to buy a beanie during a Stroke Foundation fundraiser.

The “beanie up” campaign raised funds to support the foundation’s community stroke adviser service.

“I was incredibly lucky and I still leant on these guys for support. If they weren’t here, then who the hell would I go to?” Mr Thomas said.

Beanies can be bought at Community House and Strictly Coffee in North Dunedin or online at www.beanieup.co.nz.

Foundation community stroke adviser Judith Hyslop said the foundation was getting up to 35 referrals a month in Otago.