Mountains to climb

Garry’s story


Unable to walk or use his left side, Garry’s stroke left him with difficult challenges to face. Tenaciously fighting his stroke and with some help from the Stroke Foundation, Garry set himself a goal to not only get back on his feet, but climb Mount Maunganui. A story of determination and support, Garry is a true inspiration.


“I never thought I’d have a stroke. For me, a stroke was something that happened to older people. I was only 53 and that to me, was very young.”


At a friend’s house for dinner, Garry’s face started to droop and his arm became limp. Luckily his friend knew the signs of a stroke and immediately called for an ambulance. Garry was taken straight to Tauranga Hospital where he received urgent care.


When Garry came around, he found himself in the acute stroke ward after being unconscious for five days. It was during this time that Garry was introduced to Jessica, one of our Community Stroke Advisors (CSAs).


“That initial contact was fantastic. You feel lost when you first find out that you’ve had a stroke and worry about how you’re going to be able to cope. Jessica shared lots of information about how to manage life after a stroke and helped not only me, but also my family through this difficult process,” Garry told us.


Garry was lucky to have a big support network around him and his family would travel from Whakatane to Tauranga hospital to see him.


Garry completely lost the use of his left side which meant that he was confined to a wheelchair for a number of weeks. This was a huge challenge for him, as prior to his stroke he was running 5km every day. “Finding out I would have to use a wheelchair was devastating,” Gary recalled. “A lot of people who have a stroke fall into a downward spiral of negativity and at the start, I did too.”


Garry was lucky to have people around him to support him, but hospitals can still be a very lonely place and Garry admitted that he often felt alone. Jessica regularly visited Garry, and this helped him immeasurably, as she provided advice on next steps and helped him regain lost confidence.


“I started to remind myself how lucky I was that I had made it through my stroke and started to think more positively. Jessica was incredibly supportive and offered me comfort when I was feeling lonely. Some people don’t have family support, which is why the CSA service is so important,” Garry explained.


With help around him and the confidence and determination to recover, Garry told hospital staff that he would walk out of Tauranga Hospital. He worked closely with his physio team and Jessica, who gave him the encouragement to keep going and to get stronger.


Sure enough, on 20 May 2019, he walked out of Tauranga Hospital. Garry recounted, “my friend said she’d film me walking out of hospital, but she forgot to press the record button, so I actually had to do it twice!”


Garry then set an ambitious goal to walk to the top of Mount Maunganui to celebrate being able to walk again and having overcome a huge personal hurdle. A year after his stroke, he walked to the top of the Mount and now even aims to walk 10km every day.


“My stroke really was a wake-up call for me. I never expected to find myself in that situation,” acknowledged Garry. Since his stroke, Garry has learned a lot through our CSA service about simple changes he could make to his lifestyle to better manage his health. He now makes a conscious effort to eat more fresh foods, and monitors his blood pressure regularly.


Garry still faces a few challenges but is now working parttime in the shoe repair shop he worked in prior to his stroke.


He told us, “a goal of mine is to use my story to motivate

others who have been affected by stroke. I hope people will want to educate themselves about what a stroke looks like and how to avoid having a stroke altogether.”


Situations like Garry’s are all too common when it comes to stroke survivors. That’s why our CSA service is so vitally important. Thanks for sharing your story with us Garry!