Catherine Long

At the time of my stroke, I was with two of my mates on a conservation holiday in South Africa.

I was used to suffering with headaches and had one before leaving for South Africa. Once there, my headache got much worse. I knew it wasn’t like one of my normal headaches so I asked to see a doctor and to go to hospital. However, I was told that I would be alright.

On my return journey home, whilst waiting for a plane to Johannesburg, I kept dropping my coat and collapsed in the street. After that, I couldn’t speak. My friend shouted for help and somebody from a garage took me, in their pick-up truck, to hospital in Port Elizabeth. There, I was given an MRI scan which showed that I’d had a stroke, brought on by a ruptured carotid artery. Looking back, I think that injury probably happened in my last week at work, when I lifted a heavy wheelbarrow whilst gardening at Christchurch College in Oxford.

My brother Nathan flew out to South Africa to be with me. We were there for 11 days before flying back to Heathrow. From there, I was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. After some time, I was transferred to the Oxford Centre for Enablement at the Nuffield Hospital where I stayed for 3 months, receiving rehabilitation treatment which included occupational therapy physiotherapy, psychotherapy and speech and language therapy.

I was supported very well in hospital. Friends visited in the evenings so that mum and dad could visit during the day. Now, I’m unable to work because my communication isn’t good. Once a week, I do voluntary work at an old people’s home in Burford but unfortunately, I’m not able to return to my radio DJ and radio broadcast work.

I spend time gardening outside the Annex. This is an outbuilding in mum and dad’s property which they very kindly paid to have refurbished for me. I also try to concentrate on exercise to keep me fit and mobile, and have started reading a Harry Potter book which, though not easy, I’m determined to finish.