I’m hijacking Scout’s blog area so I can tell you some things about InterAct, the charity we are proudly supporting this year.
Firstly, I’m not sure if you understand what InterAct does, but it’s fairly straightforward, and very effective. They send professional actors to read to people who have had a stroke. Stroke wards can be lonely places; not only has the person lost the structure of their life, and often their memories, but now they are faced with the loneliness and isolation of being in hospital, where there is often no specialist support and certainly no time for the essential emotional support and rehab. InterAct’s actors talk to the person, get to know them, pick up on subtle signals that help them to learn about the person’s life, then they select stories to read to the person, which have some personal resonance with them. This not only stimulates the rebuilding of neural pathways but helps to alleviate post-stroke-depression and loneliness. If you have ever suffered from depression you will understand how horrible it is, and how lovely it is when you are offered a lifeline, and some hope. Sometimes the actor is the only, non-medical, person from the outside world that the patient gets to see.
I’d like you to read this account, to help you to understand things for a stroke-sufferers point of view:
A patient in the corner opens his eyes, looks at her and closes his eyes again. The actor decides to approach him. She sits next to his bedside and introduces herself. There is no verbal reply from the patient, but a shy smile slips out inquisitively. The actor scans the Get Well cards and notices they have a common theme: they all have something to do with gardening. The actor is curious and starts to make conversation around the subject of gardening, asking whether he’d watched the Chelsea flower show. The patient’s eyes light up. He is relieved he is not undergoing yet another battery of medical questions, tests, more tests and more prodding. Here in front of him is an actor that wants to talk to him, to interact with him. He wonders if he’s seen her on the tele. The actor tells the patient that she has a super story about gardening in her library which she will read to him. She proceeds to open her book. She doesn’t just “read” the story, she brings it to life, with the accents, the characterisation, the dramatic pauses, always making eye contact with him, always ensuring they go on the journey together. He remembers the past now, the words come back to him that were not there before. The story brings pictures to his mind’s eye. He sees radiant lilies, petunias, roses and ornamental grasses swaying in the wind. Memories come flooding back and once the story has finished he shares some of his memories, recalling the tall foxgloves of the Jemima Puddle Duck story. He tells her some of his experiences as a parks attendant. “Thank you so much for coming and reading to me. That was better than four months medicine.”
I hope you can put yourself in that situation and appreciate the joy it brings. InterAct delivers over 15,000 readings each year and is looking to grow that significantly; which is where we can help greatly, with funds.
This week, I went to London to attend InterAct’s Short Story Awards; while I was there I met a guy called Alfa who suffered a stroke in 2012, at the age of 32, after being knocked from his bike by a hit and run driver. Alfa was on his way to visit his girlfriend when it happened; he doesn’t recall exactly what happened because he sustained a serious head injury, which led to brain surgery, which led to him having a stroke. This happened two years ago, and Alfa’s life changed significantly. He told me how wonderful it was when InterAct used to come on to the ward and read to him. Helping him to remember words and situations that he had previously been unable to recall. His attention was diverted from his medical situation, and for a while each week he was transported in to the real and exciting world of memories and hope. Alfa is doing really well and is now training to take part in the 2020 Olympics. Who knows, if InterAct had not helped those neural pathways to redevelop, Alfa may not be the positive, ambitious and hopeful guy that he is today, having had his life torn apart by that hit and run van.
Stroke is a major killer, it’s often brought about by the modern lifestyle of poor diet and lack of exercise – and that is where fitnaturally comes in – but beyond that stroke also strikes younger, healthy people, including babies. Did you know that over 1,000 babies suffer a stroke each year in the UK? Whilst cancer is a horrible disease, and worthy of fundraising and research, stroke is as bad yet gets very little airtime or funding. People see it as an old-person’s affliction. Let’s not forget that those ‘old people’ are often only in their late fifties and even if they are older than that does it make them any less worthy of love, care and rehabilitation? No, it doesn’t. They are individuals, they have loved ones, they want to live for as long as possible, they have feelings, they get depressed, they can easily lose hope…
Working with InterAct is very special; everything we do for them is greatly appreciated and it’s very clear where our support and money is going; very tangible. The money doesn’t just disappear into some vast pot to be spent on advertising, expensive buildings, and large numbers of staff. InterAct is small and personal, yet it touches the lives of thousands of people every year.
fitnaturally is very proud to support InterAct, and we will continue to do so, so that many more people can have their lives and minds restored.
If you would like to sponsor our event this year you can do it via this page, each of us taking part has our own page, and our donations go into a collective pot. Today, May 22 2014, we have raised nearly £9,000 and hope to raise £15,000 by the end of the month, and more in years to come.
Sally, fitnaturally Director