This story really touched our heart.
Meet member Peter Hocking, you may remember him if you've been a member with us for quite some time. As Peter used to visit daily. Or by the story we shared on Facebook 4 years ago, at the young age of 66, peter walked the Great Glen in Scotland. It took him 6 days, to complete the 79 mile walk that geologically divides Scotland.
As you'd expect, Peter was healthy, never smoked a cigarette, and could put young blokes in their 20's to shame in the gym.
Not long after the walk, we received a phone call from Peter's wife, asking us to cancel his membership, as Peter was physically unable to come anymore, because he had suffered a 'stroke'.
Well, he's back, and here's his story he wants to share with you.
A member's story
Only old people have strokes – right ?
Well, no ! New born babies can have strokes. Any age can be affected, although strokes are certainly more common in the elderly.
Only people with obvious risk factors, like high blood pressure, smoking or overweight, have strokes – right ?
Well, no again ! consider me; never smoked, gym junkie for 30 years, textbook blood pressure, excellent health. In September 2013 I was fit enough to walk across Scotland; from the Atlantic to the North Sea; five months later I was bed ridden, and facing life in a wheelchair.
A stroke is caused by an interruption to the blood supply bringing oxygen to the brain, typically by a blood vessel blockage through a clot, or by a burst blood vessel. Without oxygen for more than a few minutes brain cells die. The bad news is, unlike most cells in the body, lost brain cells can't be regrown. This is one illness time does not heal.
All muscle movement in our body relies on the brain. For every body movement, a bit of the brain needs to “tell” (through the nervous system) the right muscles what to do. If that bit of brain dies, those muscles (even though they are healthy and undamaged in themselves) just don't function. In my case my right leg and arm were affected and virtually useless. I guess I was lucky in that my thinking process and/or speech were not affected; though I confess I did not feel lucky.
There is some good news though. Although lost brain cells cannot be replaced, researchers have found (and this is just in the last couple of decades) the brain has a remarkable ability to re-wire its circuits to compensate for the damage; to “work around it” so to speak. This is called neuro-plasticity. The brain and body will never be as good as before, but significant lost function can be regained.
Although it sounds simple, it is anything but easy. The brain has to be stimulated and motivated to change itself by dedicated repetitive movement of the affected muscles and body parts; not easy when the brain has lost the ability to “tell” them to move.
A few months ago, after three years, I resumed my gym membership that Training Day so kindly let me put on hold. Those of you who see me stumbling around leaning on my walking stick can attest that I still have a long way to go, but I am already seeing the benefit. I have put the leg brace, or A.F.O. (ankle foot orthotic), that got me out of a wheelchair and walking for the last three years, in mothballs and hope it can stay there. I am now trying to reduce reliance on the stick. The future looks hopeful. I am delighted in the progress I have seen even in this short time; especially in my balance.
I am now convinced of the value of weight bearing work in a well-equipped professional gym and believe it has been under-rated in stroke rehabilitation.
My sincere thanks to the management and staff of Training Day for their support and encouragement, and to the many kind members who help me sometimes when I am struggling in my one handed way to set up equipment.