Baton bearer’s message

Stewart Anderson
Stewart Anderson

As the names of inspirational people from Galloway chosen to carry the Queen’s baton are made public, one of them is using the honour to raise awareness of a cause close to him.

Former Wigtown Primary headteacher Stewart Anderson’s role carrying the baton in June is a great way for him to tell the story which changed his whole outlook on life in the hope others will take time to look out for the signs.

Stewart, 62, fell unwell with neuralgia for about three weeks in 2010, so visited the osteopath hoping he could free what was assumed was a trapped nerve in his neck.

Stewart said: “I was lying on the osteopath’s table undergoing some manipulation of the neck when the stroke happened. In an instant, I lost all power in my right leg, right arm and all my speech.

“The osteopath was aware of the FAST campaign and immediately dialled 999.”

Stewart was rushed to Dumfries Infirmary and says that the care in hospital was “outstanding from the outset”. Early detection meant he was able to receive immediate life-saving medication and over the next hour, he witnessed all his power and speech miraculously return.

He said: “I experienced double vision for a further hour after that, but it too passed. By teatime, I was sitting up eating unaided. My predominant thought was “OK, there was a temporary shut-down, but now it’s over. Just get up and get on with it.” I had no concept of the brain injury I had sustained at that point. I was in hospital for only six days, returning for tests and scans as an outpatient.

“The clinics at the hospital stroke unit were also very supportive in my first year, although it was very emotional to witness other stroke survivors without such a good outcome. I had never asked “Why me?” but at moments like those, I did wonder “Why not me?”.

Stewart says exhaustion was the worst thing and emotions were also challenging, but both issues gradually improved over about nine months, though he still suffers slight panic attacks over health issues and can have limited patience with his seven grandchildren.

He said: “Now, I try to go running (about 3-5km) twice a week. My spelling is a little bit less confident and I find myself sleeping a great deal more than pre-stroke - when tired, I’ll sleep for up to eleven hours.

“I had a very stressful, demanding job with very long hours, so had to retire after stroke, in spite of my exceptionally fortunate outcome. My energy levels wouldn’t have allowed a return to work.

“Nonetheless, I have a terrific life in retirement.”