- You attended local schools including Hautlieu, where you became Head Boy in 1986. Could you tell us about your school days, growing up in Jersey and your aspirations at a young age?
I think I was popular, and I enjoyed being with friends, although I did get into a little bit of trouble now and again for talking in class and I became a bit mischievous once I reached my early teens.
I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was young, but my developing values of peace were at odds with that dream.
When I started my A levels, I changed my approach to school. I started to develop my ambition to be a journalist in the fight for truth, justice and equality. I was inspired by the JEP editor Chris Bright who lived in the same apartment block as me and who shared passionate stories from his work.
- You became a Reporter, News Editor and Assistant Editor at the JEP and News Editor at Channel 103. Could you tell us about your journalist career?
My first job was a sales assistant in the video centre, which rented videos. I worked there for 1 year. I then applied for a job at the JEP as a junior reporter. I was so happy to get the job although my first salary made it challenging to survive. I worked my way up the ladder and was slowly given more responsibility and important stories.
I then decided to move to Channel 103 to be the editor of their news section and stayed there for 6 years before moving to the south east of France to run a guest house, staying for three wonderful years before returning to Jersey and taking on the role as news editor at the JEP.
- You were in a loving relationship, had a baby son and were only 39 years of age when you suffered a devastating stroke which shaped your future forever. What do you remember of that time in 2007?
When I came back from France I met up with Suzi, who I already knew. We got on really well and we moved in together and my second son Joe was born. It was a wonderful time and the future looked positive.
From a life of deliberating on a particular word to capture the right meaning and from pondering on how best to articulate a story, I find myself struggling to be understood, on even the most basic things.
- The stroke left you with reduced mobility and aphasia (a communication disorder affecting 350,000 people in the UK) leaving you with difficulty speaking, reading and writing. Was it difficult for you to accept your diagnosis and adapt to this life-changing experience?
I always loved playing football and during an ordinary game, a clash of heads changed my life. At first, I was just suffering the worst headache I had ever had, but I thought it would pass and I didn’t think anything more about it.
Little did I know that two days later I would experience a massive stroke whilst holding my baby son. I managed to protect the child as I fell but then realized in horror that I couldn’t call out or move to get help.
The diagnosis was brutal, I had lost the movement in my right leg and right arm and I couldn’t communicate. I was at Overdale Hospital for six months where I receive amazing support and care.
My rehabilitation was challenging but I had fantastic physio support. I cannot thank Sally Lyon and others enough for the care they gave me. Rehabilitation was a dark time for me. I had moments where I wanted to take my own life.
I didn’t know if I would walk again or be able to communicate in any meaningful way. However, I worked through this time, one day at a time. I re-found my passion for life and my beautiful children gave me energy and love.
- What have become your everyday challenges?
From a life of deliberating on a particular word to capture the right meaning or from pondering on how best to articulate a story, I find myself struggling to be understood, on even the most basic things.
Whilst my mobility can make moving around a challenge and an effort, it is the communication issues that I found most challenging. My condition, Aphasia means that I struggle to comprehend written and verbal communications. However, I find that combining written with verbal strategies helps me to understand more easily.
- Your charity fundraising has been phenomenal to date. You overcame partial paralysis to walk the Jersey Marathon for the Stroke Association, you then led a group of islanders to cycle from London to Paris for the Stroke Association and Driving for the Disabled. You were also chosen to be an Olympic torch bearer and you ran half of the Jersey Marathon. What is your next big challenge?
I am considering swimming in a relay group from to Jersey to France next summer as well learning how to ride a horse, skydive and seeing if Richard Branson will give me a seat on his space plane. Now that would be cool!
The importance of engagement of disabled people, carers and the wider lived experience community is critical when designing, implementing and evaluating what is undertaken. To achieve this in a meaningful way is challenging, time-consuming yet essential.
- You were presented with a National Award in 2012 from the Stroke Association for your courage in coping and for your support of others. Your Therapist from the Jersey Community Stroke Team, who nominated you said you were a role model and an inspiration to everyone on the Island and expressed how you defied the stereotype around surviving a stroke. What is your message for other stroke survivors?
If you have just experienced a stroke and you are reading or hearing this story, I know how dark a place that you are in right now. I am not going to lie to you and give you false encouragement.
What you face is the most challenging time of your life where you might feel hopeless and useless. However, day by day, step by step, moment by moment you start to see the light and regain a purpose for your life. It will come, but you must fight for it.
- In 2020 you joined the Customer and Local Services team for Government of Jersey to help deliver the Disability Strategy. Could you explain what the Disability Strategy means for our Island and its’ inhabitants?
The Disability & Inclusion Strategy sets out the proposed priorities and actions to help ensure that people living with disabilities in Jersey enjoy a good quality of life.
- You have been talking to our team at IoD Jersey about how we can make our materials and communications more accessible to people with disabilities. What are the main pieces of advice you can offer to businesses to help them be more thoughtful and inclusive in this way?
The importance of engagement of disabled people, carers and the wider lived experience community is critical when designing, implementing, and evaluating what is undertaken. To achieve this, in a meaningful way is challenging, time-consuming yet essential.