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Paula Stanford

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Paula Stanford

Paula Stanford

Things are going to be different, but they'll still be good.

When Richard Symes suffered a stroke in 2012, his partner Paula Stanford worried whether their relationship would survive.

As part of our You, me and brain injury campaign, Paula explained that although their relationship has changed, their love remains the same.


"Things are different, but they're not necessarily worse," said Paula. "They're just different from how we imagined. It's still a really good, loving relationship.

After recovering from a brain aneurysm in 2007, Richard had just retrained as a radiographer and started his first job in a hospital. The couple were about to move in together, and were talking about marriage.

"He was really independent and knew what he wanted to do," said Paula. "We were both settled in ourselves and that's when it's easiest to find someone. It was all going in the right direction."

But on New Year's Day 2012, Richard suffered a stroke.

"It was horrible," said Paula. "I thought he was going to die. Then as he recovered, we believed he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life."

Richard spent the next eight months recovering in hospital and was left with left-sided weakness.
"That was the main thing I was worried about," said Paula. "It was a few weeks before I even became aware of the hidden effects of brain injury."

"I was paranoid that one of the nurses would say to me 'you know most relationships don't survive brain injury.' Of course no-one would say that, but I was worried something would go wrong."

Although Richard can now walk short distances very slowly, he is unable to move his left arm or bend his left knee. When Richard left hospital, staff arranged for carers to visit regularly to check on him.

He now visits Headway East London every Wednesday, attends swimming sessions on a Thursday and gym sessions on a Friday. Paula believes this support has helped them to lead independent lives, which has been a massively help to their relationship.

"The visits from the care agency allows me to work full time, and at least three days a week Richard's out and about doing things with the support of his care worker," said Paula. "We do our own things and that helps with the relationship. Without that it would be really hard."

Paula believes the distinction between partner and carer is really important for their relationship.

"It does make me laugh when people refer to me as his carer," she said. "That's not how we see it. I do have to do stuff for him sometimes but I'm not a carer.

"In the first year or so after the stroke people would say 'you're so good for staying with him.' I'm not doing it out of charity! We both get benefits out of the relationship. We love spending time together.

"If I could go back and give myself advice I would say 'things are going to be different, but they'll still be good.'"
 

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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