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'People saw me fall and thought I was drunk'

ANN Murphy knows more than most the devastating effects a stroke can have, having experienced it both as a medical professional and a patient.

For almost 30 years she was an occupational therapist, helping stroke victims and others to regain their independence.

However, in September 2010, just nine months after retiring, she suffered a massive stroke. "I had to practise what I preached," jokes the 67-year-old from Dalkey in Dublin.

She was returning to her car in the rain after doing some shopping when her arm suddenly went numb. And as she tried to reach for her car keys in her pocket, she fell.

Passers-by thought she was drunk, rather than in need of urgent medical treatment. "A man and a woman lifted me up and I asked them to get my keys.

"The man said: 'No, I'm not going to be responsible for you getting into that car drunk," recalled Ann. But of course, Ann knew the symptoms of stroke. Realising her speech was affected, she texted her daughter Sine, who rang an ambulance.

Ann was rushed to the stroke unit at St James's Hospital -- where she had worked 20 years earlier.

She was diagnosed as having had a haemorrhagic stroke, a bleed into the brain. "My speech was gone, I was dependent for everything -- walking, all the activities of daily living."

A low point came when she was unable to attend daughter Sine's wedding two weeks after the stroke. But Ann's determination got her through. "Immediately after the wedding I told the physiotherapist in St James's 'I'm ready to work'".

She said many stroke patients didn't realise the lack of rehab supports in the community, particularly access to speech therapists who could have waiting lists of eight months.

"Most people would be delighted to hear they're being discharged from hospital, but I knew that by going home and the area that I live in, there is no dedicated stroke rehabilitation."

Irish Independent