Helping people deal with life after stroke

Statistics issued by the Stroke Association in February of this year show that there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year. That's roughly one every five minutes.

All those strokes, plus the fact that most strokes are no longer instantly fatal as they were even just a few years ago, mean that there are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK. And those people are younger than they used to be - another set of figures released in February showed that the average age of a person suffering their first stroke fell between 2007-16 from 71 to 68 for men and from 75 to 73 for women.

At the same time, the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by 40-69 year-olds went up from 33% to 38%.

So it's undoubtedly true that there are more of us out there than there used to be. It's undoubtedly also true that I'm becoming more aware of that fact - news about stroke attracts my interest more. But it does seem that in recent weeks, I can't do anything without hearing about someone (or someone's friend or relative) who has had a stroke.

And I seem to be becoming the person everyone I know is recommending as the man to speak to for advice. About ten days ago, a friend posted on social media that her father had suffered a stroke while at a sporting club's awards night. Within a few hours, the post was full of comments from people saying: "You've got to speak to The Warrior "; "Have you spoken to The Warrior?"; "The first thing you need to do is speak to The Warrior".

She told me afterwards that I was the first person who came into her mind. We have spoken on several occasions since and will speak again soon. I'm pleased to say her father is now out of hospital, but his family are starting to realise that this is when the hard work begins; when the  support which the NHS is unable to give is most needed. That's when I hope I can help.

On Saturday afternoon, I put myself through the 90 minutes of unnecessary stress which is watching Tamworth FC fight against relegation from Nationwide League North, the sixth tier of English football. They put in a typically shambolic performance, failed to take any number of chances and conceded two goals in the final five minutes (including one when the goalkeeper let a harmless shot squeeze through his legs).

Like any good football fan in those circumstances, I was spitting blood as I left the ground so I nearly didn't see one of the matchday volunteers rushing across the (artificial) pitch shouting my name. She caught me just in time and told me that the husband of a friend of hers had suffered a stroke last week. Could she give her friend my details, she wondered?

Of course. It put Tamworth's defeat in perspective, for a start. We haven't had that conversation yet but I am sure it will happen later this week.

I always say when I do talks about stroke-awareness that if I can stop one person from going through what stroke-survivors go through, if I can help one single stroke-survivor cope with their 'new' life, it's worth it.

I just wish the high-speed, high-pressure, lifestyle which too many of us live in the 21st century didn't lead to so many strokes.