Russell is an Autistic man who was living independently with some support in 2019 in the industrial town of Warrington.
This is his story, as told by Russell to Meg Wilding from MacIntyre's Best Practice Team.
Despite living an independent and good life Russell found himself feeling lonely and isolated. He reached out for help and met Andrea from MacIntyre, who spoke about some of the activities he could get involved in, one of them being Cook Smart, a cooking club where Russell proudly tells me he makes a fantastic pasta and mince dish!
A trip to Warrington town centre
In November 2020 - one of the heights of the pandemic, Russell wanted to go deliver a letter to the Speak Up Self Advocacy group in Warrington. He had planned to go with his support staff but unfortunately they had contracted Covid and had to self-isolate, meaning Russell would be supported by someone different this day, and that was Kathryn.
Kathryn and Russell set off into Warrington town to post the letter. They parked relatively close and began to make their way. Just before they reached their destination, Russell fell and slumped into the wall. From this point Russell could not really remember much of what happened, so Kathryn explains from her point of view.
I thought that Russell had tripped over at first and so crouched down and reassured him. I hadn’t known Russell for long so I wondered if it was usual for him to be unsteady on his feet. But Russell wasn’t able to speak and respond to me and I quickly realised it was something more serious.
Russell tried to get up several times and whenever Kathryn spoke to him, Russell just made noises “hmmmmm” and for Kathryn it just didn’t seem right, so she phoned for an ambulance.
It did cross my mind that this could be a stroke but I also wondered if Russell was having a heart attack or a seizure. I knew I needed to get help quickly.
Help and an ambulance
At this point a kind gentleman (who was walking six dogs) came over to help Kathryn lay Russell down as he was still slumped against the wall. They laid Russell comfortably in the recovery position until the ambulance arrived. The gentleman also went to the local police station to get the defibrillator.
It was good because I like dogs, said Russell
The ambulance arrived and the paramedics maneuvered Russell onto a stretcher. At this point there was a noticeable change in Russell’s face, one side of his face had dropped. Paramedics then said to Kathryn that they believed Russell had had a stroke. Russell also lost the movement in one side of his body, the same side that his face had dropped.
Russell was swiftly taken to hospital. It’s important to remember that Kathryn was unable to go with him at that point as the strictest of Covid restrictions were in place. Kathryn said that the paramedics were so lovely, kind and reassuring. They said that we were lucky it had happened where it did because it meant that they could get there swiftly, and that is the most important thing when someone has had or is suspected of having a stroke.
Additional support needs in hospital
The medical staff also understood that as well as having had a stroke that Russell may have some additional support needs; they took details including Russell’s Hospital Passport and kept in touch. They let Kathryn and Sally, the Area Manager who knew Russell well, know when they arrived at hospital and what would be happening next. They also wanted to find out what was important to Russell and what he may need extra support with. Russell is close to his half-sister and they made the reasonable adjustment for Ruth to visit.
Russell can remember some parts of hospital. He can remember feeling comfortable after a shower and change from clothes to a hospital smock. I asked Russell did he mind being in hospital and he didn’t. To him it meant that everywhere was nice and clean “cleanliness” in Russell’s words and the company of nurses also kept his spirit up and his sense of humour alive.
Russell was discharged from hospital and didn’t want to go straight home, as before he had his stroke he had been planning to move into a supported living home with two housemates. With this move in mind, he went and stayed temporarily with Karen, a Shared Lives carer, until he was ready to move into his new supported living home. Russell said that it was a bit strange to begin with, but he felt he had learnt something from living there. Karen was kind and compassionate and supported Russell with attending all his follow-up appointments. They visited his new home regularly so it felt familiar and not as strange when he was ready to move in.
Recovery and a new home
Russell moved into his new home and said
it’s been a good experience to me and a couple of months I felt happy, like MAGIC, it was magic”
I like my home very much, I like the support, I have nice staff, and I like my carer friends. I’m settling in okay.
I asked Russell what it was like to go from living alone to sharing a house and he excitedly replied to me
It’s made a lot of difference, it’s changed my life you know, a new experience to me. Changing my life forever permanently
The great news is that Russell has recovered well and so completely, doing all the things he could before and more, with good support and a good staff team
Russell has now made changes in his routine after having a stroke, he has got used to taking medication twice a day. It was difficult to begin with but he’s used to it now. He has also cut down his smoking considerably.
Russell has found new confidence following his positive experience from what most would see as a negative situation, and is involved in so many more things than he ever was before. Russell is really passionate about sharing his story of having a stroke, and raising awareness. He likes talking to people about it and has told all his new staff and the people he shares a home with.
The importance of acting quickly
It’s really important to note that such a positive outcome is because Kathryn acted so quickly and instinctively understood that something was not right. Also that Russell was given the time and support to navigate his way through this journey. We all need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke so that we hear more positive outcomes for the people who draw on our support at MacIntyre.