Northern Ireland

Co Antrim man speaks out about challenges faced by stroke survivors at Christmas

Stephen Totten, pictured with his wife Nola and children Keeley, Odhran and Lara
Stephen Totten, pictured with his wife Nola and children Keeley, Odhran and Lara Stephen Totten, pictured with his wife Nola and children Keeley, Odhran and Lara

ONE in five stroke survivors will not be able to wish their friends and loved ones a 'Merry Christmas' due to problems with their communication, according to a leading charity.

Among those affected is Stephen Totten (43) from Cushendall, who is spending his first festive season dealing with the effects of a recent stroke.

He suffered a stroke in June, leaving him with right-sided weakness and a total loss of speech.

Six months on, he still has reduced feeling on his right side although the movement in his arm and leg has recovered well.

He said he is highlighting his condition in a bid to show the challenges faced by stroke survivors as well as encourage people to support the Stroke Association's Christmas appeal.

According to a survey by the charity, it found for over a third of stroke survivors, the effects of their stroke will mean that this Christmas they will be unable to play with the their children or grandchildren, decorate the tree or help cook Christmas dinner.

It also said one in five stroke survivors are suffering due to problems with their communication.

Mr Totten, a father-of-three, said: "This Christmas, I know that I can’t wrap presents or bring the Christmas tree and decorations down from the attic and I’ll be needing someone to help with the larger presents and putting any toys together.

"Every Christmas I would’ve always helped my wife Nola with the Christmas dinner, peeling all the potatoes and the carrots and this year I’ll not be able to do that.

"I am looking forward to Christmas though. I can’t wait to see the kids, and my wife's faces when opening their presents.

"I just love having the family altogether and enjoying quality family time. It reminds me what's important…still being able to enjoy these things with my loving family.

"I’m supporting the Stroke Association’s Christmas appeal and I’d like to encourage other people to get in the festive spirit and support the charity’s appeal so they can help more stroke survivors like me."

Barry Macaulay from the Stroke Association said: "This Christmas we want to highlight the challenges that stroke survivors face as they struggle to take part in the activities we cherish the most, from decorating the Christmas tree to cooking Christmas dinner or playing with children and grandchildren.

"For those survivors whose stroke has left them with speech and communication difficulties, even the simple pleasure of wishing someone a Merry Christmas has been taken away.

"The Stroke Association supports more than 70,000 people as they rebuild their lives after stroke but we can’t do this alone.

"Donations to our Christmas Appeal can help more stroke survivors like Stephen to get the vital support they need to rebuild their lives."

To donate to the Stroke Association’s Christmas Appeal, please visit