Stroke survivor puts pen to paper in aid of the charity that helped him to recover

FRANCIS Brown knew he was having a stroke.

Having worked as a driver for community services for 20 years looking after people who have suffered a stroke, he recognised the signs, which happened just a week before his 65th birthday.

"I was at home getting ready for work, when I went to get my car from the garage and found that my left arm and leg didn't work. My wife rang 999, explaining I was having a stroke, and a paramedic arrived within minutes, followed closely by an ambulance and crew," explains Francis from Acomb, near York.

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"I arrived at York District Hospital A&E within 20 minutes and had an ECG. My medical care from start to finish was performed by a first-class team.

"I was monitored for three days. While I was in hospital, a representative from The Stroke Association brought information and leaflets and visited me at home. The Stroke Association and the hospital also gave me numbers to ring if I had any problems or needed reassurance.

"My doctor told me to refrain from work for a while and I was given some simple exercises to increase my strength. I am now semi-retired and can still drive the bus at work, having passed a physical examination by an Occupational Health Doctor."

Since his stroke, Francis has made a good recovery and it hasn't stopped him from continuing with his two passions – writing and motorcycling.

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Francis explains: "Around one third of the 150,000 people in the UK who have a stroke every year go on to have communication difficulties (called aphasia or dysphasia). So I do feel very lucky that my stroke hasn't impaired my ability to communicate, especially as reading and writing can also be affected."

Three years after his stroke, Francis has decided to publish a book, The Stroke of a Pen, with all proceeds

going to The Stroke Association.

Funded by Francis and his wife, Barbara, the book is a collection of short stories, which are said to "bring a smile to the face or a shiver to the spine, and conjure up a surprise to keep the reader guessing until the very last line".

"I have always had a passion for writing and originally began these stories over 10 years ago. After joining the York Writers group, winning a few writing competitions and receiving positive feedback from proof-readers, it gave me encouragement to pursue publishing my work.

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"We recently found out that the book will be available in Waterstone's bookstore at Gower Street, central London, as part of a special promotion. It's incredibly exciting to see a collection of work I'd intended to be read only by my grandchildren, available in a branch of the UK's leading bookseller.

"Barbara and I wanted to donate all the proceeds to The Stroke Association so that the charity can go on to give support to other stroke survivors."

The Stroke Association's regional fund-raising manager, Peter Collins, says: "Francis and Barbara have shown such generosity by funding the book themselves; it's very inspiring to see people thinking of innovative ways to raises money for the charity.

"Francis has worked alongside us for a number of years, and is an important member of our Yorkshire Stroke Research Network."

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Francis concludes: "Getting the book off the ground has been a lot of hard work, so I'm looking forward to indulging in my other passion – having a ride out on my Honda Transalp motorcycle. After my stroke, I thought I would have to sell it, but I challenged myself to get back on, and now Barbara joins me on her Suzuki Burgman maxi scoot; she has no problems keeping up."

The Stroke of a Pen, costing a donation of 7.99, is available by emailing [email protected] or contacting Mahalia France-Mir at The Stroke Association on 0113 201 9790.

For further information on strokes, contact The Stroke Information Service 0303 30 33 100, or visit the website at


A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted.

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Most strokes occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Some strokes are caused by bleeding in or around the brain from a burst blood vessel.

When the blood supply is disrupted, parts of the brain become damaged or destroyed.

Some strokes are fatal while others can cause permanent or temporary disabilities such as paralysis to one side of the body and loss of the ability to speak, read or write. Recovery may be slow and can vary from person to person.

Strokes can be prevented through lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet – particularly reducing salt intake, drinking alcohol only in moderation, not smoking and taking regular exercise.

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A stroke can be diagnosed by using FAST – Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999. Stroke is a medical emergency. If any of these symptoms are present, call an ambulance straight away.

Each year, an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke.

Stroke is the third biggest killer and the leading cause of severe disability.

Of all people who suffer from a stroke, about a third are likely to die within the first 10 days, about a third are likely to make a recovery within one month and about a third are likely to be left disabled and needing rehabilitation.

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At least 300,000 people in England are living with moderate to severe disabilities as a result of a stroke.

A stroke can happen to any one at any time. About a quarter of strokes happen to those aged under 65, with about 1,000 happening to those under 30.

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