Joel Pohio's Story

Joel Pohio's story

Stroke F.A.S.T. Campaign 2024



It's five years since the stroke that was to change Joel Pohio's life forever, and mum Lesley still vividly recalls her "sense of disbelief" at the news. 


"It was a real shock and surprise that it was a stroke he had suffered from. Because Joel at that stage was 38."

Lesley's grandfather had suffered a stroke in his mid-80s, but she never dreamed her son would experience the same fate at such a young age.

As for dad-of-four Joel, now 43, he remembers the moment of the stroke itself but - mercifully, he says - little after that.

"I was giving my youngest child, who was seven months old at the time, a shower before I went to work at about 6:30am in the morning. And when I got him out, the whole left side of my body wasn't responding to what I wanted it to do. I put him down onto the couch, and then I woke up - well, it felt like I woke up - on the ground and I wasn't sure what was going on."

"My arm wasn't moving or working. My speech was impaired. I related it to a sort of heart attack."

With Hearing Joel's slurred speech, his partner at the time came running out of the bedroom to find him lying on the ground, unable to get up. She called an ambulance straight away, and Joel was rushed to Auckland Hospital for a clot removal procedure.

"The next day I had to have an emergency surgery to remove part of my skull to allow the brain to swell. I'm lucky I don't remember all of this. I woke up in rehab where I had to learn to walk again."

Joel was in a wheelchair for almost two years, and he is still working on his recovery, involving occupational therapy, ongoing physiotherapy and what Lesley calls "an incredible amount of hard work."

"It's very slow and frustrating," admits Joel. "Because every stroke is different, some people can be back to walking within no time. But also, part of my recovery is taking time to appreciate the small things. Because I could have died, and you are not coming back from that, so it's put things into perspective." 

Between the onset of stroke and getting to hospital, one-third of the right side of Joel's brain had already died.

"A big thing is time. The effect of the stroke was killing my brain at a very fast speed. Now, reflecting back, the F.A.S.T. Face, Arm, Speech, Take Action - it saves lives."

Family support has been a crucial part of Joel's recovery - physical and mental.

"There's a lot of patience involved for both sides," he says. "It's not just the person who's had the stroke who has to adjust. It's the support group around you, family, to understand and realise that you are the same person but also that you are different."

Joel is also part of a support group who meet every second Friday to share their stories and help everyone through their recovery. 

"Having others who've been through something similar has been critical", says Lesley. "Because your whole life has changed. You really need to find these support networks to help you in your wellbeing, particularly your mental wellbeing." 

For Joel, a positive mindset is everything. He's not a fan of the phrase 'stroke victim', preferring 'stroke survivor'. 

"Because that's what it is - you are. You can't deny that. Because you are alive. We are alive...yes."


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