By Jed Lanyon
Five years on from suffering a devastating stroke, A Launching Place man has recovered and now dedicates his life to helping rehabilitate others who are on the same journey.
At just 27 years of age, Alex Wright was on his daily run with his dogs when he suffered a rare form of stroke that rendered him unconscious in the middle of a road.
Speaking to Star Mail as part of National Stroke Week (1-8 August), he recalled the day that would change his life forever.
“I was running, probably about 30 kilometres a week. It was Good Friday and I went really hard because I was trying to break my record,” he said.
“I noticed that my left arm dropped the dog lead and the dog ran off. I thought, that’s kind of weird and I couldn’t pick up the lead, my arm was flaccid.
“Five or ten seconds later my legs went completely limp and I collapsed in the middle of the road. I couldn’t speak, I was out of it.”
While for some, having a stroke can be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, for Alex it was a case of being too healthy as he pushed himself to beat his personal best time sprinting with his dog.
And if it wasn’t for the quick response of a passerby who called an ambulance under the belief that Alex was drunk, the stroke would have proved fatal.
“She would have heard me slurring my words and saw that I couldn’t walk, so I probably looked like a really drunk person,” he said, having since reconnected with the person who saved him.
Two weeks later, Alex awoke from a coma without the ability to speak or move, having suffered a near fatal stroke.
“They said ‘you’ve had a stroke’ and I thought what does that mean? I had never heard of it before,” he said.
He spent four weeks in intensive care and remained in hospital for a further three weeks. He then lived in a rehabilitation facility for three months and then spent a year attending outpatient rehab.
He was told he would never walk again and that he’d spend his life in nursing care, but here he stands nearly fully recovered while attending the gym each day to keep his body active. And despite making a much better than expected recovery, Alex isn’t the same person he was prior to his medical episode.
“I’m really good now. I still have my problems, I still limp a little bit. My knee hasn’t come fully back yet.
“People think that my stroke must have been minor, but about a third of the right side of my brain is now dead forever, so it was a major stroke and one that you don’t usually recover from.”
The doctors told him it was a miracle that he was still alive.
“My stroke was in the medial prefrontal area, which is basically for personality and motor control.
“My personality has changed a lot. I was a plumber and interested in sports, just an average kind of guy. Now I’m interested in philosophy and reading a lot. I like medical science and obviously stroke recovery and helping other people. It wasn’t a side of me I had back then.”
Alex now dedicates his time to a new venture called Stroke Recovery, where he educates others about his experience and offers help to those in need.
“I was in the early stages of rehab and I had a lot of questions and a lot of it was mental health stuff. I asked the best of the best people and they said, ‘we don’t know because we haven’t come across that’, so I wrote myself some notes in my phone and I just found myself writing notes all day everyday about what I was thinking and what could help other people. Like hacks and shortcuts to getting better.”
With the help of his 10 year old nephew, he started a Youtube channel and started making videos.
“The first video went bananas, so I just kept going… Now I’m getting asked a lot of questions over email, so I write videos to suit those questions now. Trying to answer them as best as I can.
“I do a lot of personal coaching with stroke victims now. I’ve been visiting hospitals and rehabs and even people who are in the acute stages of stroke, helping them with bed based exercises, just giving them motivation and some emotional support.
“I’m also helping their partners and the carers. They’ve got all these questions that they can’t get answered.”
Alex was inspired to help others as doctors and psychologists were perplexed in answering some of the questions he had throughout his recovery. He shared his difficulty in performing certain tasks, including not being able to urinate without the assistance of a catheter for three years.
“I came up with my own way of dealing with it and then I’d make a video. Now I have heaps of people emailing me saying, ‘I’ve had the same problem for 10 years, thank you so much’.
“If someone’s had a stroke, I can tell which part of the brain it is just from looking at them for five seconds. I know how to help them immediately, no matter where the injury is… It’s going to be my career to personally coach brain injury victims.
“I just hope people can get a better understanding than what a doctor might be able to provide.”
He’s sharing his story to coincide with National Stroke Week, which runs during the first week of August. The week is dedicated to educating the community about the risks and warning signs of stroke, as well as a reminder to get your blood pressure assessed.
Australians are encouraged to be “united by stroke” by learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. message this National Stroke Week:
– Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
– Arms Can they lift both arms?
– Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
– Time is critical If you see any of these signs call triple zero (000) straight away.
“Time is everything. I had medical intervention within 25 minutes and that saved my life. I’d love for one person in every household to know what a stroke looks like, that’s what my goal would be,” Alex said.
He urged anyone who has suffered a stroke or has a family member who is recovering, to send him a question via email. He said he’s happy to travel to provide assistance and has helped many people locally and beyond.
“After I’ve helped someone, it feels like you’re walking two inches above the ground. It’s a really good feeling.”
To contact Alex, contact: email@example.com or visit his Youtube channel ‘Stroke Recovery’.