In 2006, Sydney man Julian Reddish had a high speed head-on crash after suffering what doctors would diagnose to be a stroke. He was only 17.
Although he survived, the accident was devastating. The collision and damage to Julian’s brain left him with only partial use of one hand, lingering fatigue and slower walking and communication.
His plan to begin a carpentry apprenticeship was dashed and his life, forever changed.
What began, though, was a long journey of recovery. Not one that would deliver a return to normal yet it opened the door to a whole range of new possibilities.
Refusing to accept defeat, Julian set about finding ways to aid both his own healing and that of others – as a counsellor.
“The stroke changed everything imaginable about my life,” he says.
“It was as if I was reborn. I had to learn to eat, breath, talk, walk, socialise again as if for the first time.”
Sixteen years on, he is still affected with occasional memory loss and low energy but says things continue to improve as time passes.
In the meantime, his focus is on what he can do for fellow sufferers.
“I know from my own experience that counselling and seeking support was crucial to my recovery and ability to cope,” he says.
“Although every stroke survivor is different, overall, it is possible to recover, and it is possible to enjoy life again even if you don’t think it is.”
A stroke occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain either suddenly becomes blocked (ischaemic stroke) or ruptures and starts bleeding (haemorrhagic stroke).
Either can result in part of the brain dying, leading to sudden impairment that can affect a number of functions including speech, swallowing, vision and thinking.
More than 27,400 Australians experienced a first-time stroke in 2020, according to Stroke Foundation Australia. One every 19 minutes.
Almost a quarter of victims were younger than 54, with stroke able to strike people at any age and even babies.
Over 445,000 Australians live with the effects of stroke and without action, the number is expected to will swell to almost 820,000 by 2050.
Strokes kill more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer, while the most recent estimate of their direct financial impact is $6.2 billion a year, SFA says.
National Stroke Week runs from August 8-14.
Communities are this year being urged to learn about FAST:
F – Check the victim’s face. Has their mouth drooped?
A – Can they lift both arms?
S – Is their speech slurred?
T – Time is critical.
Anyone observing these signs should call triple zero immediately.