Stroke survivor to run London Marathon for charity which supported his recovery
A Bury St Edmunds man who thought he would never run again after suffering a stroke following a race will take part in the London Marathon alongside his son.
David Swales, who works as a technical accountant at West Suffolk Hospital in the town, will raise money for the charity which supported him during his recovery.
Following a 10k at Ickworth Park in 2016, David began to fell unwell after the race and suffered a severe headache and temporary blindness at home.
David’s wife, Stephanie, took him to the emergency department at West Suffolk and an MRI scan confirmed he had suffered a stroke aged just 52.
“I was really shocked to be honest, and so was my family,” David said. “It was nothing how you would imagine a stroke to feel or look like.
“From speaking to other stroke survivors, I’ve now learnt that every single stroke is different.”
The stroke took place in two areas of David’s brain, affecting his cognitive ability, memory and balance.
He was sent home with medication to begin a comprehensive rehabilitation programme and was then referred to Livability Icanho, in Stowmarket, which provides highly specialised rehabilitation for adults with acquired brain injuries.
David was an outpatient with Livability Icanho for around six months, visiting the centre up to four times a week, with four different areas of treatment focusing on physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and counselling.
Both David and his son will raise money for the charity through running the marathon, which will be the father-of-two’s first.
“If I hadn’t been accepted by them I don’t know where I would be now,” David said. “I don’t think I would be back at work and I certainly would not have achieved some of the things I have achieved.
“Honestly, the counselling offered to me by Icanho was the service that I benefited from the most. One of the key things I came to terms with was that the stroke wasn’t my fault. I had been blaming myself, and I no longer feel that way.”
David has made significant improvements to his physical and mental abilities since having a stroke, but has permanently lost 40% of his eyesight and continues to have poor memory and cognitive and speaking difficulties.
“There are lots of things I miss,” he said. “There are things I can no longer do. However, the important thing that I have learned is not to let the stroke define me. I have a wonderful, supportive family, and lots of challenges ahead to look forward to and conquer. I never refer to myself as a victim, I am a survivor.”
David will run the famous 26.2-mile course with a guide runner, and says his son, Ben, 26, will be ahead of him looking to achieve a good time.
“I was lucky to get a guide runner, which is really good,” he said. “We’ve been out together on a few training runs and it’s important that we get to know how to run together.
“If I wouldn’t have got a guide runner, my son would have run with me, but I think he’s got his eyes on a good time.
“I’m really not setting any times for myself, my mantra is “finish line not finish time”, and it will just be about finishing the race.
“I was genuinely concerned that I would never be able to run again. I will never be the way I was before my stroke but this marathon will symbolise a massive milestone in my recovery. There will not be many stroke survivors running the marathon.”
Janet Miles, head of communications and campaigns at Livability, said: “At Livability, we are so inspired by David’s journey of recovery and his determination to use his experience to make a difference.
“Like David, so many people’s lives can be changed in an instant through acquired brain injury or stroke. That’s why supporting the work of our rehabilitation team at Livability Icanho and wider charity is so vital.
“David’s efforts are massively appreciated and we’re delighted he’s chosen to run the London Marathon for Team Livability. We wish David every success with the marathon in April.”
Anyone wishing to support David and Ben’s London Marathon run for Livability can visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-swales1
For more information about strokes, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/