International Journal of Stroke review finds young stroke survivors in China struggle to return to work

CHALLENGE: Work for Newcastle’s Meredith Burke has been a struggle since a stroke six years ago. Thousands have similar difficulties across . Picture: Marina NeilMeredith Burke had to learnto walk again.

Learnhow to talk too –from ABC’s to fluent, but now draining conversations.

All at age 39.

Her progression post-stroke hasn’tbeen easy.

For the past six years, she’s battled to adjust to her “new normal”.

She’s one of thousands ofyoung adult stroke survivorswho are missing out on the support they need to return to work, according to an International Journal of Stroke review whichfound just 66 per cent of working-age survivors had returned to work up to four years after suffering a stroke.

With about 475,000 people in living with the effects of stroke and 30 per centof thoseof working age, it’s a situation that Stroke Foundation CEOSharon McGowan says needs addressing.

“Advancements in treatment mean more ns are surviving stroke than ever before, but for the stroke survivor and their family the impact of stroke is far reaching,”she said.

“Health and social care services are not well set up to deal with younger stroke survivors, and compared with those over 65 years, youngersurvivors are less likely to be referred to rehabilitation services.”

Ms Burke, of Newcastle, was a vocational trainer before her stroke, but could not return to the role.

“It’s the cognitive drain, when young people try to go back to work,” she said.

“There’s noway I could cope with all the things that go along with training, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was too intense for the brain to cope with.”

NEW LIGHT: Meredith Burke believes the community aren’t aware of the challenges young stroke survivors face. Picture: Marina Neil.

Day-to-day is astrugglefor the 45-year-old.Her speech fatigues after a few hours, an email that takes mosttwo minutes to writecould take her 45 minutes, driving is draining andeven getting dressed saps energy.

But part of the struggle tofindwork, is the lack of help.

“There’s not really anyone in the community, or an organisation, who can sit down with you and go: ‘ok, you’ve got deficits in this, maybe you could try this’,” Ms Burke said.

Misconceptions are also a problem.Good physical recovery can often hide hiddenissues like fatigue, depression, sleep problems, anxiety and pain.

“Stroke is about learning a new normal for yourlife,” Ms Burke explained.

“For 39 years, I had thecontext of my life all built up. But it literally goesin one south route, in one day. You have to build up your life again…

“It takes a longtime to come to terms with thatand say: ‘well, what can i do now?…what can I do post-stroke that I’m interested in, that I can build a life from?’.”

Ms Burke hasfought onand is now studying fitness, alongsidehostingregular Stroke Foundation information talks with community groups and organisations.

She believes businesses in the Hunter would be willing to employ young stroke survivors, but aren’t aware of their day-to-day challenges.

Most of which, she says,can be overcome with adaptive work structures.

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