'I had to learn to walk again': Weston man talks of strokes - at 31

Kirk Godbeer Stroke Association campaign

Kirk Godbeer was 31 when he suffered 'a shower of strokes' - Credit: Stroke Association

A Weston man whose life was turned upside down after 'a shower of strokes' is backing a new campaign urging people the change their lifestyle to avoid suffering similar problems.

Kirk Godbeer had to learn to walk and talk again after being struck by the strokes, just days after the pandemic lockdown started in March 2020, when he was just 31.

The strokes also left him with problems with his sight, memory and fatigue and feeling suicidal.

Now, after successfully turning his life around, he is supporting the Stroke Association’s call for people to make ‘one small change’ - starting on Stroke Prevention Day on Friday (January 14).

Nine out of 10 strokes are linked to lifestyle factors such as smoking or obesity and the risk could be reduced by making changes.

In Kirk’s case, stress, heavy drinking and long hours at work were factors.

"I had no idea I was at risk of having a stroke," said Kirk. "I didn't think at my age stroke was a thing.

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"If I could go back in time I would advise myself not to work the hours I was working and stop binge drinking.

"I was working anything up to 60 hours a week as a chef. I would drink on my breaks and drink when I finished a lot more then I should have and at times just to be sociable."

Kirk was living in Weston-Super-Mare when he had his strokes. 

"I was helping my ex-partner co-parenting our children as our relationship broke down a few weeks before the country went into lockdown," he said.

"I was helping with our boys and isolating with them. It all happened so quickly. I woke up about 3am and walked down stairs and to get some water as I felt all hot and sweaty and I remember a sharp pain and warm pins and needles in my face and my left side of my hand and arm went dead.

"I went all panicky and thought it was odd I must try and sleep it off. The next morning - about six hours later - I woke up still struggling with my left side. I didn't want my children to see me as I was worried so I walked to my mum’s.

"Everything from this point was a blur until I came round two days later in Bristol Royal Infirmary.

"I was told I’d suffered a multi-focal cerebral infarct with right frontal and right parietal lesions. I asked what this meant and I was informed I had suffered a shower of strokes caused by clots. 

"After six days in hospital I was discharged to continue my recovery back at my mum’s house.

"I had constant fatigue. I just wanted to sleep all day and the battle of my left side being so weak and unsteady.

"After being home for five days I started to cough up lots of blood and had pains in my chest, I was rushed to Weston General Hospital where I had a chest X-ray. I was discharged a couple hours later with no answers but three days later my GP rang me to tell me to isolate because my X-ray had been looked at and I had Covid-19. This was another battle on top of my stroke and it knocked me for six."

Since then, Kirk has been working hard, slowly rebuilding his life and now lives in Burnham-on-Sea.

"Learning to walk again started with baby steps and no rushing," he said. 

"I had stairs at my mum’s so I would use the two bottom steps as my recovery goal. Day by day, I would just walk up the first step, and then the second step and back down again.

"I did this about four times a day for two months to help build the muscles in my leg and train my brain to climb and walk.

"Of course, there were a few trips and falls but I never gave up. I was determined to climb to the top.

"Three months post-stroke, I finally did it, from the bottom to the top with no help from anyone just myself. And that's also when my walking started to get better. I would go and walk around the garden and walk back in.

"Learning to speak again was a struggle. I love music - it's always been a massive part of my life. So I put music on and as soon as I hear it I can sing. 

"With my aphasia I could hardly talk, so to sing was a massive step in the right direction. So about five hours a day I would listen to music, sing and then I was able to talk better.

"I'm proud I’ve managed to turn my life around, it was a terrible time around my stroke. At one point I was homeless.

"I was low and depressed and tried to take my own life six times, I was put into a shared accommodation but wasn't allowed to see my children. I was down, gave up on life and struggled with my stroke recovery.

"Now, 21 months later, I have taught myself to walk and to talk, all due to research and YouTube videos for speech therapy. I’ve given up alcohol, am monitoring my cholesterol levels, and now I see my children regularly.

"I just want to thank my kids for being amazing little humans and lifting my spirits every day and their mum for being the best mum I could ever wish for to my boys.

"I’ve lost 14 months of not being supportive myself towards my kids and now I’ve got the rest of my life to make it up to them. My new partner now fiancée Kate who has been so caring, understanding and helping me with my ongoing recovery and all the support she has given me has been amazing.

"And finally, I’d like to thank my ma and dad for all their help and support and just being the best parents I could ever wish for."

Juliet Bouverie OBE, chief executive at the Stroke Association, said: "We know not all strokes are avoidable, but as many as nine out of ten strokes could be prevented as they are linked to things you can change or manage.  Many people simply don’t realise they are at risk and that’s something that we as a charity desperately want to put right. 

"The effects of a stroke can be life-changing for you and your family, so why not do all you can to avoid one yourself?"

Find out about what you can do at www.stroke.org.uk/stroke-prevention-day.