IT’S a bright, sunny afternoon when I go along to Cork Support Centre at Oak House, where there’s a lively group around the table having a cuppa and laughs aplenty in the company of stand-up comedian, Chris Kent.
Chris and his friends will take to the stage of Cork’s Everyman theatre on May 25, to raise funds and awareness for Cork Stroke Support.
“Cork Stroke Support provides an incredible service that changes the lives of stroke survivors and their families,” says Chris.
“It has been a fun experience bringing together this band of comedians for a night of fun and laughter for a worthy cause that impacts so many families.
“Cork Stroke Support provides a vital service, and I am delighted to have an opportunity to support their great work along with some of my favourite comedians.”
Chris will be joined at the fundraiser by fellow comedians, Laura O’Mahony, Andrew Ryan, Con O’Sullivan, Bernard Casey, Paul Crowley, Ross Browne and Sinéad Quinlan.
All comedians and crew have waived their fees, meaning that funds raised will go directly to fund the important work of Cork Stroke Support.
Tom Lotti, from Rochestown, and Derry O’Callaghan, from South Douglas Road, both 66, suffered strokes two and three years ago respectively.
“I was in hospital for three weeks,” says Tom, who worked in calibrations.
“The stroke left me with a stammer. And I’m a bit forgetful. I used to be able to talk for Ireland but not now...”
But he can sing for Ireland.
“I joined the choir here at the support centre and my favourite song to sing is The Fields of Athenry.”
I tell Tom it’s one of my favourite songs too, being from Galway.
“I love it here,” says Tom.
“I was a bit anxious coming at first, but after a few days I relaxed, now the gang here are like family.”
Derry, who owned Zico Pizzas, agrees with Tom.
“The camaraderie here is great, says Derry.
“There are people here worse than me and better than me. There are great people working here.”
Derry often lends a hand himself.
“I’m the bottle washer and I often go to the supermarket for Feena, our administrator, to get stuff for here. I like playing bocci, which is a bit like bowls. And I joined the choir.
“People tell me I look great, I used to play football with Tramore Athletic, but now my energy levels are low.”
But he’s still chief bottle washer.
“I’m a house husband,” says Derry.
“I do the ironing, washing and hoovering and I mind the grandchildren. That gives me something to live for.”
ANOTHER FAMILY’S STORY
Mary McCarthy’s life changed dramatically when her husband, Jimmy, had a stroke in 2020. The family lived in Garrettstown and moved to Ballinspittle.
“We found our tribe at Cork Stroke Support Centre,” says Mary.
“Jimmy had a devastating stroke on February 20, 2020. He was also an unfortunate victim of Covid-19 lockdown. He spent seven months in hospital without a visit from his family and a lot of that time spent alone in hospital because patients were kept apart. He was discharged home on September 26, 2020.”
Jimmy’s life had changed dramatically.
“Discharged home after having a stroke is a strange experience,” says Mary.
“Jimmy was 66 years of age. In 2020 he was running the family business, Blue Horizon, getting ready for the tourist season. Accommodation bookings were coming in and Jimmy was on full throttle getting set for the season when he suffered a stroke.
“The last sight I had of Jimmy prior to his stroke was when I saw him driving up the hill in his Saab and parking between two pillars. The Saab was his baby.”
Their home changed dramatically.
“A few days before Jimmy came home, the hospital bed arrived,” says Mary. “Nothing seemed more out of place.”
The day he came home from hospital stands out in her memory.
“The wheelchair taxi pulled up, and Jimmy was wheeled in,” says Mary.
“Suddenly our home seemed like a hospital. My head was spinning; I had no idea how Jimmy was coping.”
Help arrived to support the family.
“Each in turn arrived wearing masks; the physio, the occupational therapist, district nurse and three people in blue uniforms, one of whom I recognised,” says Mary.
“They were all about the place discussing how things were to be done. They all left and one introduced herself as Ann who said she’d be back at 7pm.
“Jimmy had tears in his eyes. I think he wanted to go back to the hospital,” recalls Mary.
“On his discharge, discussions were held with the discharge team. Considering Jimmy needed the assistance of one person 24/7 and the assistance of two people on occasions, if we, his family, were unable to manage Jimmy, the alternative was long term nursing home care.”
The decision was made.
“We had made the decision, ‘we can do this’,” says Mary.
Things had changed dramatically.
“On the morning of February 20, 2020, Jimmy was our wingman, he did everything,” says Mary.
“We had almost no contact with Jimmy for seven months and he was now home. A different Jimmy. Nothing prepared us as a family for this event.”
Everyday life was different now.
“The HSE provided the girls in the blue uniforms which I discovered were Personal Care assistants (PCA), formerly known as Home Helps. These three girls, Ann, Pam and Bernie and many more PCAs were to come five days a week to help with getting up, showering, etc, which we truly appreciate,” says Mary.
“A few days later, an appointment for the geriatric clinic arrived. I still cry when I think of that letter,” says Mary.
“Jimmy, our main man, was now labelled a geriatric. They say never assume, but I did assume. I assumed Jimmy would receive rehabilitation. I was to accept that Jimmy spent seven months in hospital; he was rehabilitated as much as was possible. And we are now on to maintaining what ability he has.”
Mary began her research.
“I was always an avid reader, so my first option was to research,” she says.
“A thick white folder came home with Jimmy. A folder from Headway, a stroke is a brain attack; this was my answer. It highlighted all the difficulties with regard to brain injury, explained how it could help. Was I delighted!” says Mary.
“There was light at the end of the tunnel; but then there wasn’t. Help was available to under 65s only. We had experienced this already when we were informed that our one national rehabilitation Hospital, (NRH) does not take over 65 stroke survivors.
“I found Brain Acquired Injury (BAI). It had all the requirements Jimmy needed. Unfortunately, this was also for under 65 years only,” says Mary.
And then Mary struck gold.
“The final piece of paper in Jimmy’s discharge document was a brochure for Cork Stroke Support Centre.
“I made the phone call, after so many doors were closed because Jimmy was 67 years old, life changed for Jimmy and all his family,” says Mary.
“Life was a very lonely place for the first year he was home.
“He couldn’t speak, the left side of his brain was wiped, and he lost the use of his right arm and leg.”
Jimmy found a new way of life at the Cork Stroke Support centre.
“Cork Stroke Support (CSS) centre stimulates the brain, there is constant movement challenges,” says Mary. “There’s singing, exercises; every item on the brochure is available.
“CSS is for all stroke survivors. It is great that stroke survivors of all ages with their families can be members. We found our tribe. CSS, thank-you. Thanks for opening your door to us, we are truly grateful.”
Jokes for Stroke, presented by Cork Stroke Support and sponsors, Architectural Metal Systems (AMS) will take place on Thursday May 25 at the Everyman Theatre. Tickets are now on sale from €29 euro on www.corkstrokesupport.ie/
Chairperson of Cork Stroke Support, Dan Cronin, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Chris and his fellow comedians for generously giving their time for this wonderfully funny evening. This event would not be possible without our friends from AMS-who have come on board to sponsor this event.
“At Stroke Support, we recognise the importance of fun and laughter in the recovery process. Laughter brings people together, lifts our hearts creating a sense of connection during challenging times.
“¦I know that the people of Cork will come out in force to support this event.”
For more information on Cork Stroke Support, see www.corkstrokesupport.ie or call 021-2427599.
Cork Stroke Support was founded by Carmel Kilcommons, Anita Ryan and Dr. Mary J. Foley.