A Co Antrim man has told how he has been left facing financial hardship after suffering a stroke just a few months after he was made redundant.
New figures published today by the Stroke Association reveal that almost half (43%) of stroke survivors across the UK, aged under 65, are struggling financially after their stroke.
The charity’s findings reveal that more than 125,000 stroke survivors have experienced a loss of income, faced discrimination at work, and in some cases have been forced to sell their home to pay for medical expenses.
Ballymena man Sean Barr, aged 54, suffered a stroke in May, just eight months after being made redundant from a long career as a security manager at Michelin.
Recounting the terrible experience, he said: “The morning it happened, I remember falling out of bed and my wife being concerned but went on to work.
“Thankfully Sharon came back and found me unable to speak properly and rang for an ambulance.”
Sean was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he underwent surgery to remove a clot from his brain.
Since the stroke, he has struggled with anxiety and fatigue, and his plans for retirement have been deeply impacted.
He continued: “I’ve worked all my life and after the redundancy I planned to get a part-time job to tide me over until I could retire.
“My wife Sharon and I had always planned to retire together when we were 57 but the stroke has changed all that.
“I couldn’t cope with work now so we have to tighten our belts financially.
“It’s not how I planned our retirement and the fear and worry of me having another stroke affects all the family.”
Despite what has happened, Sean says he is “grateful” that his recovery is going well.
“The doctors told my wife that I had a 50-50 chance when I got to hospital so it’s a miracle I’m here,” he added.
Barry Macaulay, director of the Stroke Association in Northern Ireland, said: “Life changes instantly after a stroke, and the condition can have a huge cost, not only to people’s finances, but also to their health, independence and relationships.
“But not enough people realise the wider impacts that stroke can bring. Overnight, a partner becomes a carer. A breadwinner becomes jobless.
“These latest figures show that many stroke survivors are facing a life on the edge of poverty; many have had to give up work, and in some cases, face discrimination from their employers.
“This comes at a time when financial worries should be the last thing on their minds.”
The Stroke Association’s Lived Experience report is the UK’s largest ever survey of people affected by stroke, with over 11,000 responses.
There are currently over 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, with a quarter of strokes happening to people of working age. The findings show that over half of stroke survivors aged under 65 gave up work or reduced their working hours following their illness.