Laughter is best medicine for recovering from stroke
MAY is Action on Stroke Month, which is organised by the Stroke Association to highlight the effects of a stroke
MAY is Action on Stroke Month, which is organised by the Stroke Association to highlight the effects of a stroke on victims and their families and how to reduce the risk of suffering one. SIAN GORDON reports on the work of the Henley Stroke Club.
AUDREY RICHARDSON set up the Henley Stroke Club in January 1981 while working as a physiotherapist at Townlands Hospital.
She recalls: “I heard myself say, ‘Do you think a stroke club would be of use?’ I have never looked back as the club has gone from strength to strength.
“People seem to enjoy it. With great pride, I can say anyone who comes here never leaves — even when their partner dies people stay on.”
The club meets every Tuesday morning at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road and currently has about 20 members.
Activities include quizzes, raffles, guest speakers, going out for lunch once a month and meeting by the river during the summer.
Mrs Richardson, of Wootton Road, Henley, says: “The success of Henley Stroke Club is due to the most loyal, conscientious and cheerful bunch of helpers that any organisation could wish to have and to the fact that the members throw themselves so wholeheartedly into the spirit of the thing.”
She says the aim of the club is to offer emotional and psychological support to stroke survivors and to give carers a break.
She says: “People can bring along their partners and leave them with us for an hour-and-a-half, although some stay because they enjoy the social side of it.
“This is purely a social club to get people out of their homes once a week.
“The club is about company and fun. A man once told me that he liked coming because he did not feel different here.”
The late Ivy Slatter, one of the first members, wrote a poem about the club, describing it as the “happiest place in town”.
She wrote: “Each Tuesday they meet, their friends for to greet, ignoring disablement, never a bleat. The helpers are many, assisting us all, enjoying their work, which never does pall.
“Exercises are part of the well-ordered plan, loosening the limbs of each woman and man, brain teasers and puzzles to make our minds work, all join in with gusto, no one wants to shirk.”
Lyn Cole, another member, said: “Having a stroke, even if it is only a slight one, is a great shock and very frightening and I found that joining the club helped me to come to terms with myself.
“For one thing, some of the other members were so much worse than me that I simply did not have the nerve to go on feeling sorry for myself. I learned to laugh with them and at them and at myself and if you only do this for two hours a week it must be good for you.”
Vivien Payne, of Mount View Court, has been attending the club since his stroke 14 years ago.
He says: “This is somewhere to come for a good laugh. That is definitely the important thing. I look forward to coming to this and my art class each week. We have quizzes and more quizzes and it is good fun. We are all in the same boat and we all get on very well together.”
The club is now run by Margaret Peters and Anne Bishop, who are assisted by about 15 volunteers. Mrs Peters, of Manor Road, says: “My late husband Alan had a stroke in 1998 and when he was going for physio at Townlands there was a little notice up and when I saw it I said to him that I was taking him there.
“He joined and I came along with him. Sometimes I stayed and sometimes I left.
“It is amazing to see how some people recover almost completely.
“With his second stroke Alan lost his voice. I think he was having small strokes all the time but did not realise.
“When Alan died in 2004 I carried on coming as I had made a lot of friends. He had really loved coming here and it really helped him.Lots of our volunteers have first come here with their partners. It is important for members to meet other people who have suffered a stroke as when you see how cheerful people are it does help. They have a great deal of laughs together here.”
Volunteer Veronica Townsend says her late husband Roland was inspired by other members who were worse off than him.
She says: “Everyone is still happy and smiling. Roland had a bad stroke but got 98 per cent of his left side back. He went back to work but had two small strokes a year later.”
Mrs Richardson believes that electric buggies have made a big difference to the lives of people who have suffered a stroke.
She says: “Before they came out I took one man home and he said that he would not leave the house again until the next week.
“Buggies have helped people get out and do things under their own steam.”
The cost of running the club is covered by legacies, reduced rent and the weekly session fee of £1.
For more information, call Mrs Richardson on (01491) 572840 or Mrs Peters on 01491 572861.