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Jules Pring

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Jules Pring

Jules Pring

I felt I had lost my dad even though he hadn’t died

Dave Vandervlist had always been a strong father figure to his daughter Jules. He raised her to be tough and instilled in her a determination to overcome her fears and never give up.

But all of that changed when he sustained a stroke in 1997.

As part of our You, me and brain injury campaign, Jules told us how her dad went from being her protector, to the one who needed protecting.

Daddy's little girl

"I no longer saw my dad from a ‘little girl's perspective,' said Jules. "It affected us all – me, my dad, my mum and sister.

"I felt I had lost my dad and experienced grief even though he hadn’t died.

"I found it hard not to see the tough guy anymore. It was, and still is, heartbreaking to witness the change in character as well as all the physical and emotional changes."

Throughout the 1990s, Dave and his wife Angie ran a 124 acre farm in East Devon. The couple also ran a family business selling rally car parts, and Dave was a keen rally driver.

Despite all this to keep him busy, Dave still regularly went out with the hunt, and taught his daughter Jules to ride at the age of seven.

"Horses have always been a big part of my relationship with my dad," said Jules. "He taught me to be tough –‘get back on the horse when you fall off and never give up.’

"I hated him at times for it, but looking back, it was a life lesson. I am still a determined character and give things a go, even if I don’t feel very brave."

A different dad

After Dave suffered a stroke in December 1997, he was no longer the dad Jules knew.

"He couldn’t speak and he cried a lot" she said. "He couldn’t walk and he lost the use of his right side. He didn’t look like my dad anymore."

Dave was discharged three weeks after his stroke, just before Christmas. By then he could walk with a stick and could speak but struggled to find the right words and didn't always make sense.

Horse riding was a huge part of Jules' relationship with her father before his stroke

Horse riding was a huge part of Jules' relationship with her father before his stroke

Now he can walk unaided and speak in fluent sentences most of the time. But he can no longer enjoy some of his life's passions.

"He managed to get back on a horse again some years after his stroke, but it was never the same as it hurt his legs and he wasn’t as strong as he was," said Jules.

"I gave up horse riding as I lost my confidence – maybe because I fell off and my dad was no longer able to keep motivating me. We sold all the horses and he gave up farming."
Christmas 1997, a few weeks after dad's stroke

Christmas 1997, a few weeks after dad's stroke

Changing places

The effects of Dave's brain injury took their toll on both him and his wife Angie, and Jules watched as they slipped into depression.

"I worried so much about my mum as she had to make the biggest changes in their life.

"She was a wife but later became my dad’s carer. It's not something she particularly wanted to do but she just got on with it. She is so strong, selfless and brave."

Jules had always been able to rely on her mum for support, but after her dad's stroke she found herself supporting her parents more and more.

"Me and my mum have always been close," she said. "She has always been there when I needed her.

"She always called me her ‘rock’ as I tried to support both my parents and their emotional needs and be a shoulder to cry on when they needed it.

"She seemed to have faith in me for being there and I was happy to speak to the doctors about my dad's ongoing appointments when my mum couldn’t cope with it."

A toast to the future

Despite the changes in their relationship and the challenges the family has faced, Jules still loves her dad for who he is.
"In 2010, my parents took all of the family to Barbados where I married my husband Jason," said Jules.

"I never asked my dad to do a wedding speech as I knew it would be too much for him. He is far more emotional since his stroke and struggles to speak if he is on the spot.

"However, he raised a glass and, despite not being able to get the words out, attempted to say congratulations. It was a moment I shall never forget.

"My dad is more laid back as a consequence of his stroke. I guess it gives you a new perspective on life when something like this happens.

He is still my dad, despite the long term effects.
Jules with her mum and dad at her Barbadoes wedding in 2010

Jules with her mum and dad at her Barbadoes wedding in 2010

 

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