Stroke does not discriminate. It can happy at any age.
And here is the group of young women who prove that point and have been brought together, as survivors, together regaining their confidence and independence.
With each other’s support, they are members of the only group of its kind in the UK – ‘Young Women After Stroke’.
Now they have celebrated their first anniversary and decided to ‘dare to go bare’ for a special calendar.
The ‘Strip for Stroke’ calendar is just one initiative – aimed at raising funds and awareness – which they have undertaken as they fight back.
The ‘Strut for Stroke’ fashion show is another which has inspired the group members.
Indeed, their efforts are inspiring to all.
Made up of young women across the Southern Area, the group was set up to help women regain their confidence and independence following a stroke.
The group currently has 25 members – all aged between 16 and 55 – from across Armagh, Dungannon, Craigavon, Banbridge and Newry and Mourne.
Catherine Sheeran, who manages Community Stroke Services in the Southern Trust, explained: “As well as the very physical affects it can have, stroke can completely turn people’s lives around, having an impact on self-confidence, relationships and employment status.
“We want to help people to recover as much as they can and as quickly as possible following a stroke, so after their discharge from hospital, our team of specialist nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and rehabilitation assistants, provide intensive support to clients in their own homes for up to 12 weeks.
“Some people will need ongoing support following this rehabilitation period and so we work closely with partners like the Stroke Association who offer fantastic services like the Young Women After Stroke group to help our clients regain normality again.”
The group meets every fortnight in Brownlow Community Hub to share information and support each other and they have also embarked on a number of fundraising and stroke awareness campaigns like the ‘Strut for Stroke’ fashion show and a ‘Strip for Stroke’ calendar.
Valerie Dale, from the Stroke Association, co-ordinates the group.
She said: “Whilst most people who have a stroke are older, younger people can have strokes too. One in four strokes in the UK happen in people under the age of 65.
“With three times more women now dying from stroke than breast cancer, it is also now becoming much more common.
“Our women have experienced many social and psychological consequences, like loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation or depression from the changes stroke has made to their lives.
“The group aims to support these women and help them to support each other, sharing experiences and rebuilding their lives.
“I am so proud of all of our women. Each of them has travelled a very unique and inspiring journey and we very warmly welcome new members at any time.”
Tom Richardson, Director of the Association, added: “This is a truly inspirational and much needed project designed to help young women rebuild their lives after stroke.
“We are delighted the Southern Trust had the foresight to see how important this project was and welcome the vital support from Catherine Sheeran and her team in making this project a continuing success.”
Photographs and calendar design by Kirsty-Lyn Jameson Photography. Pictured are the members of the Southern Area ‘Young Women After Stroke Group’ who ‘Stripped for Stroke’. They are Michelle McGarry, Lurgan, Stacey Hutton, Armagh, Roz Magill, Portadown, Lynda Wright, Armagh, Bernie Fox, Moy, Gillian McKnight, Lurgan, Kate Gorman, Newry, Kerry Edgar, Craigavon, and Cheryl Corbett, Banbridge.