At forty three years old Simon Hall was not exactly a candidate for having a stroke. Far from it as he was a non-smoker, sensible weight, he took regular exercise as a kayaker and enjoyed good all-round health. And yet this all changed one ordinary morning in 2013 when, completely unexpectedly and without any warning, he had a stroke. Happily Simon Hall has recovered and it appears has been helped through regular kayaking.
“It was an ordinary day when I was getting ready for work and I simply dropped my socks on the floor. My arm started flapping around uncontrollably and I had no idea what was happening” explained Simon.
He quickly found himself in hospital. Although he was initially sent home as they’d believed he’s simply had a “minor” stroke, he was rushed back a couple of hours later as it was clear the stroke was far from being minor.
“The NHS treatment then was brilliant. They invested a great deal in trying to find out why the stroke had happened but concluded it was ‘cryptic’ which means there is no obvious reason. They did all sorts of tests on me to try and find out why I’d had a stroke. This included looking at my heart to see if there was anything abnormal like a wide opening in the heart or an area where the blood is pooling but nothing was found; there was no reason why I’d had a stroke".
"Having a stroke was incredibly debilitating for me, I had almost three months off work. The immediate impact on me was chronic tiredness and fatigue. The Doctor I saw at the hospital recommended I sat at home, rested and pottered around”. This is exactly what Simon did but soon became restless.
"After being in the house for a week or so, I leapt at the opportunity to go shopping with my wife Elizabeth to nearby Milton Keynes. When we got there we went to a cafe which was only 50 years away, I couldn’t even make it that far and had to go back to the car for a sleep. This is because my brain was working so hard to repair itself, that is why I was so exhausted. People tend to look at the physical effects but it is actually a brain injury and it takes a long time to heal".
"Then there was a period of recovery and it was the canoeing which I missed so desperately. Even when I was in hospital I remember thinking how I’d miss canoeing for my own sanity and sense of well-being. I became despondent after a couple of months, I was wondering if I’d ever be able to go canoeing again".
The Doctors couldn't tell Simon how precisely his recovery would go as the impact of every stroke is different. After three months there was enough improvement to allow Simon to return to work on a part time basis. The turning point was when his own GP recommended he continued kayaking having recognised the benefits (other health professionals had suggested exchanging his canoe for a set of golf clubs). Something like kayaking his a non-contact sport and therefore relatively safe for someone in Simon’s position.
Simon was greatly encouraged by one of the other club members to pick up kayaking again in a K2. This was a helpful way of easing back into the sport and it was reassuring to know someone was always close at hand for Simon. Gradually Simon regained some of his strength and fitness. He believes the regular pattern of paddling as been helpful in his recovery, having to co-ordinate the left-right-left-right rhythm.
Now it is three years on from his stroke. Simon describes his recovery as being almost complete. He says the grip in his left hand is not being quite as strong but otherwise he’s regained his strength, fitness and confidence. Although very modest and unassuming, Simon is clear that he owes so much to kayaking. His stroke could not have been predicted; he was fit, healthy and ordinarily far too young for a stroke. Simon believes it was his underlying all round level of fitness that helped him recover and, most importantly, provide a focus for his rehabilitation.