Last week in St Pancras, London, The Able Label Founder Katie attended the second Alf Morris lecture. The aptly named lecture titled ‘Stroke of fate: the politics of recovery’, saw guest speakers infamous broadcaster and journalist Jackie Ashley interview her husband and political television presenter Andrew Marr.
This was the very first time they had spoken publically as a couple about their experience. They discussed their own personal experiences with disability and highlighted the impact it has had on their shared lives after Andrew survived a major stroke in 2013.
Andrew joked that he used to say he “had everything in perfect balance - I worked too hard, I ran too fast and I drank too much… little did I know I was running straight into a wall”. He’d had TIA’s before but did not know what was happening to his body.
We heard about the moment his life changed as he realised he’d had a stoke. The morning after he felt unwell the night before, he woke up on the floor having fallen out of bed and struggled to get up. Progressing into the bathroom, he looked in the mirror and explained how he saw he had that “classic stroke, downward slope of the mouth”. Andrew went to Jackie and said, “I think I’ve had a stroke” at which point Jackie screamed.
The main message to come from the interview was that knowledge is key and ignorance is dangerous. Also, the importance practical help in keeping people with disabilities as independent as possible was emphasised too. Andrew and Jackie discussed how this must to start with rehabilitation as they both flagged that “This country is brilliant at keeping people alive. ‘We’ve kept you alive – now off you go’. It needs a switch of emphasis after coming out of hospital”. Andrew puts the basis of his recovery down to rigorous sessions of physiotherapy which he did not have nearly enough of before being released from hospital.
Andrew also highlighted how although he can now get his tie on himself, he remains unable to fasten the top button on his shirt and has forgotten how to tie a shoe lace. He emphasised how aids help you get so much independence back and he couldn’t get by without them explaining how “everything I do has been affected, it is extraordinarily tough… you are hit with a whole raft of problems”.
He advised how even the most basic pieces of equipment can make the difference between coping and not being able to cope. The difficulty is finding out about these things.
Jackie’s late father Jack Ashley became profoundly deaf which lead to him campaigning for disability rights and was instrumental in helping Alf Morris to get the Disability Discrimination Act passed in 1995. Now the Alf Morris Fund for Independent Living has been established to help people find out about the resources available to keep them independent, and to help them make choices and in Alf’s words, “adding life to years” rather than just years to life.
Find out more about it through the DLF website at http://www.dlf.org.uk/node/706