A cabbie who survived a devastating stroke is putting on a brave face – after being left in limbo when rehab was axed due to coronavirus.
Fun-loving Alister Mejury is hoping to get back on the road again with West Renfrewshire Cabs.
But the 53-year-old now feels trapped after physio sessions and outreach help were scrapped.
Despite trying to be upbeat, he said: “I feel abandoned – and there must be many others like me.
“I am not getting the face to face help that can make the difference.
“My support has just disappeared.”
The Paisley taxi driver spoke out as the Stroke Association in Scotland called for immediate action from the NHS.
The charity has just published a worrying report revealing unavailable treatments and cancelled rehabilitation as people are left to flounder while NHS resource has switched to Covid-19.
Andrea Cail, Scottish director of the Stroke Association said: “Strokes didn’t stop happening because of the pandemic, but some treatments became unavailable, making lockdown even tougher for those living with the debilitating effects of stroke.
“This report uncovers a lack of access to treatment across the whole pathway from acute treatment through to rehabilitation and long term support.
“We are urging the Scottish Government to act now.”
On October 6 last year, Alister woke up in his Brediland Road home and took three attempts to get out of bed.
He became concerned when he couldn’t squeeze the soap bottle with his right hand while in the shower.
After 53 days of care in Ward 4 – the stroke ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital – he was nursed back to his feet and was allowed home.
Alister is pictured above in his hospital bed, and below before his major stroke on a scuba diving holiday.
But, with his right side still badly affected by the stroke, continuing physiotherapy sessions were vital.
Alister said: “When Covid-19 came, everything stopped for me.
“I had also tried to take on a role as a buddy for the Stroke Association to return to the hospital as a survivor and talk about my experience to patients.
“But that has also had to be put on hold.
“My colleagues at West Renfrewshire Cabs have been willing me back to work.
“But with this stop in regular physio, it is going to be a longer road.
“I cannot speak highly enough of the team that looked after me in the RAH. I didn’t even know if I could stand up again – they got me to stand up.”
Alister’s right side remains affected and he walks with a stick, but he is regaining some feeling in his pinkie finger and thumb.
Now he feels only intense physio can get that hand moving again.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s incredible response to stroke, finding new ways to send signals down new paths.
Alister said ongoing treatment is very important, explaining: “As a taxi driver, I have been explaining it that if the M8 to Edinburgh is blocked, you have to take another route, like the M80.”
He is having to adapt to his situation without professional outreach help – and uses a pizza slicer to cut his sandwiches.
The cabbie, who lives alone and used to enjoy scuba diving, recalled: “When I was in the ward, my whole body just closed down.
“I couldn’t speak, my face had slipped and everything was paralysed.
“But I still felt my time in hospital was completely hilarious and every day I would find myself in hysterics thinking about my situation.
“I don’t want to appear to be the victim in this, but want people to know there is hope after a stroke.
“But, at the moment, I still need help if I am to get back in my cab.
“That’s what I love. I have done it for 20 years, and I think the passengers enjoy their trips with me.”
Alister’s story was featured on TV by BBC Reporting Scotland reporter Aileen Clarke this week and he joked: “My friends have been saying their kids could only watch from behind the sofa, even worse than Dr Who.”
Every year in Scotland around 10,000 people have a stroke, killing a quarter of them.
The Stroke Association report showed 59 per cent of survivors were getting less help since coronavirus and 43 per cent of respondents have felt less able to cope with the impacts. A third said they felt abandoned during lockdown.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde refused to go into details about Alister’s case.
A spokeswoman said: “Our community health teams have continued to support patients throughout the pandemic and this includes physiotherapy and occupational health services.
“While some face-to-face appointments had been cancelled to keep patients safe, support has been provided via telephone and video consultations.
“Where possible, we are now providing face-to-face care in people’s homes. This is regularly assessed and reviewed, taking into consideration local restrictions.”
• Have you, or anyone you know, had treatment that was halted because of Covid-19? We would like to tell your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org