Thursday, February 2, 2017

Stroke survivor stories - Siew Cheong

The stories of stroke survivors are what drives our fight at the World Stroke Organization to achieve our goal of a world free from stroke. Welcome to our stroke survivor stories series, which we'll pop up on the blog every Thursday, you may wish to contribute to this poignant narrative of stroke globally. Please contact

Where were you when you had your stroke?  
For me there was no warning. In 2007, I woke up, played badminton, went to sleep and when I opened my eyes my whole world had changed. Words that I had spoken my whole life had disappeared. Physically, I looked normal – I could walk and eat and watch TV. However, when my wife asked “What time is it?” I could not answer.

Could you access hospital?
Later, they brought me to see the doctor, and the doctor asked me my full name, my words were gone and I said, “I know, I know.” This is when my family knew something was very wrong. The doctor arranged for me to go to the A&E ward. Since I was walking, functioning and eating fine I was not put as a priority case.

What expectations did you have for your treatment and recovery?
For over an hour, I walked up and down the waiting room not knowing what was wrong with me. It was a very scary and strange experience. I could only pray. When it was finally my turn, the doctors did some scans and tests. They told my family that I had suffered from a stroke; my speech was affected but the worst was over. I lost usage of the right side of my body and also 99% of my speech.

Before that day, my family never guessed I would be the sort of person that would get a stroke. I was the one who made them drink carrot juice and eat wholemeal rice. We thought strokes were for elderly, overweight people, who smoked and did not exercise.

What has helped you in your recovery?
I had always been healthy. I loved sports…my favourite is badminton and until my stroke, I was playing badminton three times a week. After my stroke, I worked hard with the speech therapist and did mild exercise. The competitive sporting side of me took over and I was determined to improve. Over time, I went from not knowing my name to regaining 80% of my speech. Apart from feeling a little more tired and losing my temper a bit more, I was fine. I was even starting to play a bit of light badminton. Life was starting to become normal again.

That was until my second stroke. My second stroke was a lot more serious. So serious, the doctors said that I would not walk or function normally again. I was in the hospital for five months, but I was determined not to give up.

How did your family and friends feel and respond?
My wife supported me every step of the way. Even when the doctors were unsure if I would ever regain what I lost, I was sure.

Today, I have gone from having no movement in both legs to being able to walk for short periods of time with my stick. I still can’t use my right side but I was always left handed anyway. My family have been very supportive and are determined that I have a normal life. My wife especially has been my greatest help. She and I have travelled the world - visiting The Great Wall of China and going to Ephesus to see the Greek ruins, where there was a hot, dusty and an extremely jagged path. Some people told my family off for bringing me there, but I don’t think that just because I am not as able-bodied I should miss out or ever give up. Just because it is not as easy does not mean that it is impossible. 

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