Sunday 8 December 2019

'I suffered a devastating stroke live on air... listeners probably thought I was inebriated' - father (58) on this date five years ago

Martin Quinn with Malala Yousafzai
Martin Quinn with Malala Yousafzai
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Martin Quinn's life changed forever on this very date five years ago.

He appeared on local radio to talk about how Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was attacked by Taliban gunmen, would be honoured with the Tipperary International Peace Award.

During the interview though, he suddenly couldn’t answer the talk show host’s questions clearly.

He was confused. He didn’t know what was happening, and before he knew it, the interview had to be cut short.

It wasn't until the following day when Martin was admitted to hospital that he was told he’d had a stroke live on air.

“It was a seismic event which I will forever associate with Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai,” Martin told

“I suffered the stroke which left me unable to answer the interviewer’s questions in a coherent manner and may have given the impression to listeners that I was 'inebriated', even though it was just 10am in the morning.”

“I went home alone and unwell and unsure of what was happening to me.”

“It was the following day before I was admitted to hospital after my condition had deteriorated and I was unable to speak or stand unaided.”

Martin, now 58, worked as an assistant supervisor on a community employment scheme at the time. He was also secretary of Tipperary Peace Convention, and he and the committee were working hard to prepare for Malala’s arrival.

“I had been in good health… I had health issues over the years but I was in good health. It came like a bolt out of the blue. I had been under a lot of stress but it was still a shock.”

“Along with my speech I suffered from a lot of cognitive and memory issues, and weakness on one side. So I had to undergo a lot of therapy. That was all part of the recovery.”

The stroke has had a profound impact on Martin’s life, and he has required extensive rehabilitation.

But when a friend visited him in hospital and suggested that Martin might not be able to make a speech when Malala received her award, the tide turned.

“I vowed to myself that day that I would deliver the speech when Malala came to Tipperary. And so in August of that year Malala did arrive in Tipperary with her father Ziauddin. I had been recovering well and had worked very hard with the speech and language therapist, Yolane, to ensure that I could deliver the speech.”

“I had however to deal with an obstacle that had come in my way when my consultant at Cork University Hospital told me that I was to be admitted immediately for further tests. I refused to be admitted explaining to the consultant that I had a very important visitor arriving and I had a speech to deliver. So my admission was put back until my visitor had returned home.”

“My colleague John told Malala and her Dad about my stroke and my recovery, and myself and Malala compared notes about learning to speak again and later that day I stood on stage and delivered a speech without fault in the presence of Malala, her Dad and hundreds of people.”

“I had come a long way since the stroke seven months previously and while I was overjoyed at achieving that milestone I was blown away listening to Malala deliver an inspiring address.”

Martin still remembers his meeting with Malala and Ziauddin as seminal.

“I was inspired by Malala's courage, conviction and determination. Her recovery proved to be an inspiration to me in my fight to regain my speech and my independence.”

“I knew I was in the presence of a remarkable young person who would one day go on to leave a major mark on world history. I was honoured to be in her presence and delighted that she inspired me on the road to my recovery.”

“My recovery was going to take time and perhaps too quickly I returned to work. However I struggled greatly with cognitive, concentration and memory issues along with terrible fatigue.”

“I eventually, in consultation with my GP and Consultant, had to retire on health grounds. It is a very difficult transition to go from working to retirement - physically, mentally and financially - but I knew that I was no longer able to continue working.”

While survivors of strokes often live with ongoing challenges for the rest of their lives, Martin said he was buoyed by his experience with Malala, and with help from local groups.

“Life after stroke is never the same and certainly not easy but there is great support out there with a network of stroke survivor groups around the country and a new national United for Stroke Irish Heart Foundation group for the younger stroke survivors.”

“These are all invaluable for those of us dealing with after-stroke issues. There is an aphysia support group in Tipperary which I have found to be of great help. The group is supported by the speech and language therapists, who are wonderful. We meet monthly in Clonmel and it is great to meet up with others (and their carers) who are in a similar situation.”

“They are great support for anyone whose speech has been affected by stroke or other brain injuries.”

“When I lost my speech I was determined to regain it and I did. We can all inspire each other on the road to recovery just like how I was inspired by Malala. So on the five year anniversary of my stroke I still have to deal with post-stroke issues but I am grateful for the inspiration of Malala and for the support of my family and of so many friends and colleagues.”

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