After surviving a stroke, Christine was determined to recover.
She crawled when she had to, went to college on crutches, learned to cook without salt, and now you wouldn’t know she had a stroke.
There were times I forgot to take my blood pressure medications
I worked for the London Fire Brigade for 24 years. I was very dedicated to my work, moving through catering to administration to training and development. I had high blood pressure for quite a while towards the end of my time there. I had a very busy schedule – working, studying, looking after my home and my two sons – there were times I forgot to take my blood pressure medications.
I began retraining as a teacher after I finally bid the Fire Authority farewell, meanwhile working for the London 2012 Olympics in administration. It was after the Olympics that I had a stroke.
I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent even during The Games – I felt like I was dragging myself along to things I would normally excel at. I was with a friend one day when I started to feel a bit unwell. I excused myself and went back home, cooked a meal for my sons then sat down and fell asleep. When I woke up, I felt numbness down the left side of my body and I said to my son, ‘I think I’m having a stroke’.
The ambulance arrived within eight minutes. My speech was going, I wasn’t my normal self, and an MRI scan the next morning confirmed the stroke.
Inside of me I felt, this cannot be me, I have to get through this
I was in hospital for 14 days. I couldn’t walk. One evening my blood pressure shot to 200mgHg systolic. There were doctors everywhere and nurses supporting me. I was at the point of death, but inside of me I felt, this cannot be me, I have to get up, and I have to get through this.
An Occupational Therapist made adjustments to my house so that I could go home. They showed me how to walk and how to cross the road. I got myself washed and dressed. I crawled when I had to, I had physiotherapy, I went to the gym and I did the exercises I was given. I used a taxi service to get to work, and I studied for my diploma in teaching adult education on crutches.
I had challenges, but my mind was made up. I had my sons to think about and decided I would not throw a pity party by feeling sorry for myself.
If you saw me you wouldn’t know I had a stroke. I teach cooking classes to adults one day a week in Newham, and I give training on food safety and allergen awareness. I still have mobility issues, I’m not 100 per cent, but I’m still fighting on. The battle’s not over until you’ve won.
Not everything we like is good for us, and I’ve had to make some adjustments
I’m from Ghana and African Caribbean people like to eat food that’s salty, spicy, fried and full of flavour. Not everything we like is good for us, and I’ve had to make some adjustments in order to live a healthy life.
Salt is a challenge, but I’ve explored a wide variety of recipes, and my background in cooking helps. I use lots of herbs and spices for flavour, I bake instead of frying, I eat lots of vegetables instead of potatoes or rice, and I try not to have too much red meat. It’s having an impact on my children because what I cook I serve to them as well.
My doctor advised me about exercise and I go to the park when the weather is nice. Walking in the park is free, you meet nice people and you don’t get bored, stressed or depressed because you are up and about in the fresh air.
Make the best of what life throws at you
Life is a journey. You meet challenges, but don’t let them get on top of you. Make the best of what life throws at you and learn from it, that’s what makes life rich.
I’m 60 and I carry a bit of weight but I know I still have more to give to society so I know I have to look after my health. Doctors can do what they’re trained to do for you, but you can help yourself too. I would say to African Caribbean people, or anyone who’s finding it hard to make changes, we only have one chance in life and once it’s gone it’s gone. So make adjustments now so you can live longer to enjoy your family and friends.
Faith has had a lot to do with my recovery. There were times I called on God to give me the strength to pull through. With the help of God, my sons and a friend called Sister Mercy, I know I’ve achieved a lot and I will win this battle. Life is not about giving up it’s about going on, and learning that you can encourage yourself and make it if you want to.
View Christine’s recipes and her tips for healthy eating in our summer 2017 issue of Positive Pressure magazine
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