On the morning of 23 December 2015, completely out of the blue, schoolboy Neil was taken to hospital after completely losing movement in his arm, leg and his ability to speak. His family were told that he had had a devastating stroke. Although no immediate cause was found, it was later traced back to a seemingly minor incident incurred while he was representing his school playing rugby three weeks previously, which had left him with a sore neck and bad headaches.
It took four months in hospital and intensive therapy for Neil to learn to sit up and eventually to walk again. Neil worked hard with physiotherapists to build up the muscles that showed signs of working, and has learned to use his left hand to write, type and dress. Sport had always been a big part of his life, so Neil learned to swim again using only one arm and a weak leg. He now swims regularlyand has recently been selected to train with the Scottish disability swim squad. As he could not return to rugby or run Neil has also learnt to canoe and kayak one-handed, and ride a trike.
The stroke also left Neil with a condition called aphasia, which affects his ability to express himself through speaking or writing. He was unable to make any sound for five weeks, but showed incredible determination to improve. After 15 months, Neil could speak simple sentences. Neil has returned to school, and is working hard to help other children living with aphasia and stroke in Scotland.
Neil’s mother Lynne said: “Neil has faced each challenge life has thrown at him so positively, and he has never once complained about having had a stroke. He works so hard with his recovery, and tries his best to achieve everything he can. He keeps us all smiling and our hearts just burst with pride.”
Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association, said: “Neil is a really remarkable young man. Around one in three stroke survivors has difficulty speaking or understanding, leaving them feeling lost for words. This can be terrifying and isolating.Neil is young, but he has risen to all the challenges he has faced with great maturity, grace and grit. He has shown extraordinary depth of character, resilience, and courage and we are honoured and delighted to give him this award.”
The Life After Stroke Awards celebrate the achievements of unsung heroes who are helping to conquer stroke. To find out more about the Life after Stroke Awards please visit www.stroke.org.uk/lasa