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John's story

John is 65 and lives alone. He left Scotland aged 26 and travelled all over the world for work. Returning in 2018 at age 62, wanting to go ‘home’, John enjoyed a full, active and independent life.

Along with his friend , John would go to watch Bo’ness play football every Saturday and using his bus pass would travel all around Scotland as he pleased.

In June 2020, shortly after the Coronavirus Pandemic took hold and national lock-downs became part of everyday life, John suffered a Stroke. He was admitted to hospital and spent 6 weeks there recovering.

“The Stroke didn’t just affect me physically, it was mentally challenging too. It knocked my confidence and I was frightened I might never be able to live alone again. I was scared I might never walk again, but scared of trying to walk too.”

Upon discharge from hospital, John returned to his first-floor flat to find that things were more difficult than he had realised.

“I could manage short distances on my own, so once I was out of hospital after my Stroke and back in my flat I was ok to go from room to room as it’s all on the one level. But it meant that once I was in the flat, I had to stay in there. There’s 13 steps to get down to the ground floor level. It doesn’t sound much, but when you can’t feel your foot on the floor it’s extremely difficult to walk up and down steps and not fall over. I was so afraid of falling down the stairs that I decided I wouldn’t go out again.”

Due to lockdown restrictions, John wasn’t able to have any visitors to his flat, meaning much of his time was spent alone. He spent Christmas and New Year on his own. A friend made him a Christmas dinner and dropped it to him at home, but unfortunately the restrictions didn’t allow for any further mixing.

As part of his recovery, John had 4 weeks of physio appointments, after which time built himself up to try and tackle the stairs on his own again, but just couldn’t manage it. After this, he decided that he would just stay in his flat.

Thankfully, John was referred to Royal Voluntary Service, and volunteer Marie was able to help.

“I was so grateful when the NHS referred me to Royal Voluntary Service. I had no idea that the service existed and I couldn’t believe that there were people out there that wanted to help me. Without their help, I would have been trapped inside my flat on my own. I would have tried to walk on my own eventually, but it would have taken me a very long time just to get the confidence to try. Royal Voluntary Service has helped me considerably.”

Marie from Royal Voluntary Service met up with John and together they put together a plan to get him out and about again.

“Marie was wonderful. She was always happy and smiling and I was so pleased that someone wanted to help me. She sets me little challenges and helps me to walk a little bit further and a little bit quicker each time we go out, and it’s really building up my strength and confidence. I used to get quite breathless but now I’m able to walk a bit further each time without getting too out of breath.”

Once John started his visits, he began to feel so much better. Just to be able to get outside and have some fresh air made such a difference to his life, and John says that just being able to see someone face to face has been “brilliant!”

Once they got to know each other and built up a rapport, Marie would push John to start setting his own goals and would time each of their walks. Marie says, “We’d aim to go a little faster or further on each walk, and I’d time it and tell him how he had done. I’d ask him how far he’d like to walk next week, and would he like to try and get to the local park and back.”

Over the duration of the walks with Marie, John noticed his posture changed completely as he was no longer hunched over and he had straightened out. He was able to walk further, faster, and was much less breathless.

Recalling his experiences, John said, “After having a Stroke, I was very unsteady and wobbly on my legs. It meant that I was stuck in my flat as I didn’t have the confidence to tackle the stairs to get outside. Going on these little walks with Marie has helped me more than I can say.”

John has been so grateful for the support he’s received and now tells everyone he meets how much Royal Voluntary Service has done for him.

“I’m so grateful for the service. Thank you to everyone that supports Royal Voluntary Service. I just don’t know what I’d have done without them.”