A STROKE survivor is urging others to support the charity which helped him cope with the devastating effects of the attack.

When Darren Smith, 44, had a major stroke last year, he didn’t realise how much his life would dramatically change in a moment.

Darren, from Wickford, was working as a signalman for Network Rail before his stroke, living a sociable lifestyle with his wife Katie, and two teenage daughters, Hannah and Eleanor.

But everything changed in March last year when he came home one Friday afternoon with a burning sensation along one side of his body. Finding it difficult to steady his balance, Darren thought he had pulled a muscle, and he and his daughter decided that it would be best for him to go to bed.

The next morning when Darren woke up, he realised his body was really heavy and difficult to move.

Despite this, Darren still went about his normal Saturday morning routine of getting breakfast, when all of a sudden he struggled to walk downstairs.

Thinking that something really wasn’t right, Darren called NHS Direct for some advice.

Darren said: “There is no other way to describe that moment in time other than being a terrifying one. I knew that something wasn’t right, and that I couldn’t ignore this strange feeling going on. As it wasn’t visual, it was really difficult to explain the feeling to my wife and children. When I explained the symptoms on the phone, the operator asked me to pass the phone to my wife immediately – and that’s when I felt a sinking sensation that something was very serious.”

Katie was told to take Darren to the hospital immediately.

After a scan of his brain, Darren was told that he’d had a massive stroke and needed treatment fast.

Darren left Basildon Hospital after five days with his body, speech and eyesight affected from the stroke.

A couple of weeks of later, Michelle Turner, a local support co-ordinator for the Stroke Association met with Darren and his wife to offer support and guidance in coping with Darren’s life after his stroke.

Michelle, who has been with the Stroke Association since 2008, has helped 2,750 stroke survivors in South West Essex.

Michelle supported Darren with lots of tasks, such as his benefit form, which he has recently been granted after a year of waiting.

She said: “I know the huge impact a stroke can have on someone and their family. When I first visited Darren and his wife Katie, their main concerns were about finances and how they were going to manage with two teenage children.

“Darren’s had a thalamic ischaemic stroke which has left him with constant neuropathic pain in his left side, something that has had a massive impact on him and his family. Darren has been told that it is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life as there is no cure. He was only 43 when told this.

“It’s hard to see someone in such pain and worry. I helped the family to organise their finances, fill out forms, and most recently I helped his wife apply for a carers grant.

“Katie has now given up work to be Darren’s full time carer as he is diabetic so needs to eat regularly, but is registered partially sighted so finds it difficult to prepare food.”

“It’s so lovely to work closely with a family that show such a strong bond. I know that through their determination and love, they will get through this difficult time.”

Darren added: “I cannot thank Michelle enough for her support.

I wouldn’t knowwhere I would be without Michelle. She’s not only a Stroke Association member of staff, but a friend.”

! For more information on stroke, visit stroke.org.uk