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​East Midlands stroke survivor scoops national award

Press Release   •   Nov 18, 2016 12:29 GMT

A 59-year-old stroke survivor has been presented with an Adult Courage Award, sponsored by Pink Lady, at the Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards.

John Smejka from Navenby in Lincolnshire, Lincoln received the award from James Norton and Kelly Hoppen in recognition of his passion and commitment in helping other stroke survivors in his community.

The charity’s star-studded ceremony, sponsored by the TONI&GUY Charitable Foundation, NEXT plc and Irwin Mitchell,was held at the London’s Dorchester Hotel on 16 November.

John, a former civil engineer, had a stroke on Christmas Day 2011, which left him with complete right side paralysis and severe communication difficulties. John was unable to communicate at all – not by speaking, writing, picture charts or alphabet boards.

After a stroke around one in three survivors have difficulty speaking and understanding, which can be terrifying and isolating. But with the Stroke Association’s support, people like John can find new ways to communicate.

Following his stroke, John became extremely passionate about stroke research. He has supported several research projects for City University London and the universities of Oxford and Birmingham, and takes an active part in open days and helping medical students better understand aphasia.

Five years on, John’s communication still needs planning, putting a point across remains mentally exhausting, time consuming and frustrating. However, John has played an important part in the recoveries of many stroke survivors living in Lincolnshire. He volunteers at the Stroke Association Talk & Support sessions in Lincoln County Hospital where he helps people come to terms with the impact of their stroke.

John said, “This award is really for my whole family, not just me. Without the support and encouragement of my family I wouldn't be where I am today. “

John was nominated for the award by his wife Paula Smejka. Paula said, “I could write a list from here to the moon of how many times John has amazed me with his will power or made me cry with his progress. I am bursting with pride that his undying zeal for life has been recognised by the Stroke Association. John is a true example of how it is possible to rebuild a life after stroke.”

To find out more about the Life after Stroke Awards please visit

  • A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. There are around 152,000 strokes in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over 1.2 million people in the UK living with the effects of stroke.
  • The Stroke Association is a charity. We believe in life after stroke and together we can conquer stroke. We work directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, with health and social care professionals and with scientists and researchers. We campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can. We fund research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke. The Stroke Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke. More information can be found at
  • Christmas is the loneliest time to be lost for words. After a stroke, around one in three survivors like John, have difficulty speaking and understanding, which can be terrifying and isolating. But with the Stroke Association’s support, people can find new ways to communicate. Find out how you can help at or search for #lostforwords
  • The 2016 Life After Stroke Awards are sponsored by TONI &GUY Charitable Foundation. More information can be found at:
  • Irwin Mitchell is over 100 years old and is one of the largest law firms in the UK. There are offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough (Consulting Office), Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton. Irwin Mitchell has also completed the acquisitions of Specialist Personal Injury firm MPH Solicitors and private wealth firm Berkeley Law in the past two years. For more information visit
  • Onecom is the UK’s leading business to business mobile phone provider and manages more than 335,000 connections throughout the UK. Onecom specialises in tailored fixed line and mobile solutions for businesses ranging from SMEs to large corporates. Onecom is headquartered in Whiteley, Hampshire, and also has offices in London, Cambridge, Shoeburyness, Cardiff, Southampton, Plymouth, Leeds, Telford, Norwich and Brighton. Find out more at
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