Interview with Wirral Life & Sefton Life

We are incredibly humbled to have been asked to chat with Wirral Life and Sefton Life regarding all things ‘A Stroke of Luck’.

Fantastic platforms for us to tell our story and for our Founder to talk through his experience. Thank you to Wirral Life, Sefton Life, and Westminster Associates for your support!

If you are a survivor, or know a survivor, please do register your details so you can access personalised rehabilitation programmes once our platform launches later in 2019.


A Stroke of Luck is a new charity founded by Stroke Survivor, Craig Pankhurst. Here, we speak to Craig about how he has married his past (fitness) and his present (Stroke Survivor) life to create a charity that supports the recovery of Stroke Survivors using physical rehabilitation. One of the key priority areas for Craig and the charity is raising funds to achieve the charity’s immediate aims of developing the platform to give Stroke Survivors access to the physical rehabilitation support that so many of them desperately need.

Tell us about yourself
I have recently turned 40 and I’m embracing my new life. I am fortunate to be alive following the stroke I suffered on 28th April last year and whilst the past 12-months have been challenging, they have also been life-changing in a positive way. I was born in Oxford and lived in Witney, which borders the Cotswolds until I flew the nest and headed to University in Cardiff. My younger years were spent in one of three places: school, a swimming pool, or a football field. I loved school, but I loved sport even more. I was extremely fortunate to become an international swimmer and these are days I look back on very fondly. Sadly, being able to fit in my trunks is a distant memory and I will never be able to brag about having a 26-inch waist and only 4.8% body fat again!

I am married to Kirsten and Dad to Reefe and Darcy and live in Thurstaston. I have two dogs, Rowlf the Newfypoo, Dawson a Bulldog (he has a face only a parent could love), and a cat called MoPo. Why MoPo? Well, we are all Spurs fans and Mauricio Pochettino is the Spurs’ Manager and is nicknamed MoPo. Our daughters thought this would be the perfect name for our cat.

What did you do prior to founding A Stroke of Luck?
Following completing a BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences in 2003, I spent time working in commercial roles moving to leadership positions for some highly respected brands. The experience I gained led me to establish a business with a couple of friends. Within 12-months of trading, our business had won the exclusive contract with Liverpool Football Club for delivery of their training programmes. I managed to build strong relationships with my clients, so much so that Julie Harris of Liverpool Football Club is one of the Trustees of A Stroke of Luck.

Let’s take you back to when you were having a Stroke. What was it like?
It was in the act of blinking my eyes at 6am that I first realised I was not in a good way. The overwhelming feeling of the room spinning uncontrollably, yet in darkness as my vision had gone, resulted in a feeling of dread and fear. Little did I realise that at the age of 39 I was in mid-Ischemic Stroke and that life was about to change forever.

I suffered a stroke that Saturday morning whilst in bed. Panic set in when I tried to stand up and my legs gave way. Something was obviously not quite right! I made it to the bathroom, helped there by my wife, where hours of constant vomiting ensued, sandwiched between deep sleep and the room moving in all directions at high speed.

I finally admitted to myself that this predicament wasn’t one where a typically ‘blokish’ response would suffice and a trip to seek medical help was required. I was duly admitted to Arrowe Park hospital for CT and MRI scans. With friends and family by my side, we awaited the doctor’s diagnosis and after an interminable wait the verdict was delivered: significant damage to the brain due to an Ischemic Stroke. In addition, further scans have shown that I have a dissection of my vertebral artery which requires the care of the specialists at the Walton Centre.

Wow, that sounds frightening. Have you been left with any effects of the stroke?
In a word, yes! However, I am very lucky, and I know that. My biggest issue is post-stroke fatigue. Anyone who has suffered a stroke and has this as an effect will understand how debilitating it is. It is a dreadful experience that a sufferer has to live with every day. It is not like being tired. I spent years of my life in a tired state having been a swimmer. Having my coach give me a set of 10 x 200m Butterfly is a doddle compared to the fatigue I live with now.

I have learnt to manage my fatigue via a traffic light system: Red, Amber, and Green. When I’m in my ’Green Zone’ I’m able to function pretty much as I could pre-stroke, albeit with a slight left-side weakness and concentration deficit. When in my ‘Amber Zone’, my speech and thought processes slow down and my left side weakness is more pronounced. In ‘Red Zone’, I become very limited in my movement and struggle to communicate effectively. This is a scary zone to be in for me, but much more for my daughters. I limit the times I am in this zone and I am able to do it by managing my activities as Red, Amber, and Green activities to ensure I maintain the best energy levels I can.

Why start a charity when you are recovering from a stroke?
I have always been a very motivated individual who thrives on setting goals. I firmly believe it is these traits which continue to support me in my recovery. Under the care of the Walton Centre in Liverpool, I continue to manage my rehabilitation to ensure I am best placed to live a positive and full life. And it is for exactly these reasons I wanted to start a charity to inspire fellow Stroke Survivors to embrace their new life in a similar, positive way. Meeting other Stroke Survivors, I realised that self-image and self-esteem are significantly affected by a physical change and after the initial rehabilitation phase patients are signed off to continue their recovery on their own, exacerbating this loss of confidence. What has really helped me has been to find a personal trainer and a gym that can support my physical recovery, improving my self-confidence. A Stroke of Luck will do the same for Survivors who may not have the same expertise or resources to do this for themselves, and need a bit of support.

How did you come up with the name and logo of A Stroke of Luck?
A Stroke of Luck is the name my wife thought of when I said I wanted to start a blog tracking my journey through recovery. The name encapsulates how I feel; it is ‘a stroke of luck’ I am alive. Pretty quickly after buying the domain to start blogging, I felt I could do more than just blog about my experiences. I wanted to support my fellow Survivors with something tangible. That’s when I decided to start a charity. The logo represents the zones I mentioned earlier. The actual paintbrush stroke will become recognisable and will stand on its own. The red, amber, and green is a very visual representation of how a Survivor may be feeling at any particular moment. It may not be linked to their state of fatigue, but their mood, their perceived mobility, or even how anxious they are feeling. It is also great for children and other supporters of Survivors. My daughters always ask how I am feeling and base their assessment on the logo.

When did A Stroke of Luck launch?
Only a few days ago! It launched on 1st May 2019. When we say we are new, we really are! It is a very exciting time for me and for my fellow Survivors. We chose 1st May as the launch date as it is only a few days after the 1st anniversary of my stroke, and May is also Stroke Awareness Month. It seemed like the perfect date to bring A Stroke of Luck to life.

Why is A Stroke of Luck needed?
Often, the results of a stroke leave a Survivor with significant motor and neuro challenges. The physical, mental, emotional, and social impacts of a stroke can be damaging to the Survivor’s appetite for life. According to the State of the Nation Stroke statistics authored by Stroke Association in February 2018, there are over 1.2 million Stroke Survivors in the UK with another 100,000 strokes in the UK each year. Over two thirds of these Survivors leave hospital with a disability. In addition, this research suggests that investing in physical rehabilitation to the tune of £10m could result in a saving of c.£750m by 2035. We need to provide the opportunity for Survivors to get active and promote physical rehabilitation for the benefit of all. Even just using this as evidence, it is clear that both Survivors and the NHS need support. That’s what A Stroke of Luck will do, with your help.

How does A Stroke of Luck work?
It’s a very simple concept; we match Stroke Survivors with Fitness Professionals to get Stroke Survivors physically active. We are building a web platform where Stroke Survivors register and create their personal profile. They will become a member of the ‘A Stroke of Luck Survivor’s Club’. This club will provide health and wellbeing advice as well as access to fitness videos.

Personal Trainers will also register on the platform and create their personal profile where they will become a member of the ‘A Stroke of Luck Expert’s Club’. By registering on the platform, Personal Trainers now have access to new prospective clients. Funding received by A Stroke of Luck will be converted to credits. These credits can be used by the Stroke Survivor to book a session with a qualified A Stroke of Luck approved Personal Trainer. In addition, we are creating ‘A Stroke of Luck Supporters’ Club’ for those who support the A Stroke of Luck journey. It is anticipated that A Stroke of Luck will not be limiting its services to just Personal Training. As we grow, we will bring on board other wellbeing services for Stroke Survivors to spend their credits on. It could be dance classes, golf tuition, swimming lessons, meditation classes, or any other activity provided by A Stroke of Luck’s partners.

This seems like a great initiative. What are the immediate plans for the charity?

We have two distinct priority areas:
1. Raise start-up funds
2. Drive awareness to Survivors, Personal Trainers, and Supporters so they register on our website
The most important aspect to the start of our journey is raising the vital funds which allows us to realise A Stroke of Luck’s potential. The income we receive over the next few months will support the final building phase of the membership portal and matching system. In addition, income will be attributed to building the A Stroke of Luck Team. We are creating jobs for local people, and we need your help to do that! The funding we require to complete the digital infrastructure is £20,000. This will allow us to complete the build of the portal and provide Survivors with the opportunity to engage with Personal Trainers. Additional funding received will be spent on staffing A Stroke of Luck as well as developing the charity’s collateral.

So, when will the portal be ready?
This is a date for your diary! On the evening of Friday 6th September 2019, we will be having a big-bash. The evening will be the official launch of the A Stroke of Luck membership portal. This will be an event not to be missed! It is going to be a fantastic evening. The venue is stunning. The finer details of the evening will be announced over the coming days via A Stroke of Luck’s social media channels. Expect auction prizes which money cannot usually buy, a live band, a headline guest speaker, and other super stuff! Tickets will be on sale from A Stroke of Luck imminently. Interestingly, we have already sold a number of tables before we have even announced the details!

What are your aspirations for the charity?
We don’t just want Stroke Survivors to survive, we want them to THRIVE. This mantra will drive us to be one of the biggest stroke charities in the UK. A Stroke of Luck’s aim is to engage with each and every Stroke Survivor who wants our support. We would like to enhance the lives of every Stroke Survivor, regardless of their post-stroke effects, by giving them access to long-term physical and emotional care following the discharge from the medical professionals. My nirvana would be for fellow Stroke Survivors to benefit so positively from their Personal Training that they train to become ‘A Stroke of Luck Personal Trainer’ themselves. We are going to be introducing a bursary scheme to enable this to happen. A Stroke of Luck is working in partnership with Lifetime Training, an award-winning national training provider who will provide the training for Survivors to become qualified Personal Trainers. In fact, Lifetime Training have agreed to train me to become a Personal Trainer so I can deliver sessions to fellow Stroke Survivors. We are very proud to be working with such a fantastic company.

Where can we find out more information?
Please visit the A Stroke of Luck website where you can have a look around and find out more about the work we are doing. A Stroke of Luck is working with a fantastic fully integrated communications agency; Ubiquity Group, who have managed everything from concept through to execution. In addition, Ubiquity Group will be managing the charity’s social media accounts.
We can see your passion for A Stroke of Luck but what are your personal goals?
To live a healthy life and be proud of what we can achieve together at A Stroke of Luck. I regularly attend EMPOWEREDFIT in Wirral and work with my Personal Trainer, Joe Ward. It is a fantastic gym where everyone makes me feel very welcome. Their Personal Trainers really like the A Stroke of Luck concept and are getting involved.

Remember I mentioned I used to be a swimmer! Well, I am also going to compete in the British National Masters’ Swimming Championships this coming October and will be raising funds for the charity. I’m really looking forward to competing again after nearly 15 years. Keep a look out!
I was recently a guest speaker at Siemens Healthineers, who manufacture MRI machines, to talk to their whole staff. The talk was given from a Patient’s Perspective, and how without them, I would not have survived. I was able to draw on my personal experience and talk from the heart. Since then, I have been asked to speak at schools and corporate businesses regarding ‘Resilience’ and ‘In the face of adversity’. This is something I am passionate about continuing.