Ossie Newell

Ossie an inspiration

May 10th, 2013

Do you believe in life after stroke? 

Since suffering a stroke 13 years ago, Ossie Newell has written four books, made a film, argued with the Health Secretary in Parliament and received an MBE from the Queen. So if you’re looking for an example of life after stroke, you’ve found a living, breathing, campaigning one in Ossie.

Ossie, now 77, had a stroke when he was 64. He’d retired at 50 from his high-flying job at AMEC plc, a multinational construction services, project management and engineering consultancy with a turnover of over £350m a year, and Ossie and his wife Olive planned to enjoy the good life.

And for 14 years, they did just that with long holidays, days pottering in the garden and plenty of time spent with their children and grandchildren. Plus, as he had never been to university, Ossie satisfied an ambition by enrolling in a humanities course with the Open University.

“I loved it! It was so, so different to anything I’d done before,” says Ossie. “I was just writing my final thesis — I’d finished it as a first draft — and I came downstairs and said to my wife ‘that needs to be tarted up a bit’, went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and BANG…  I had a stroke.”

It took nearly six months of hospital treatment and rehabilitation before Ossie was allowed back home. He was in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk, dress properly or feed himself.

“I really did think in those early days that the best thing would be for me to die — and for the family. How wrong can you be? What’s happened to me since has been absolutely unbelievable.”

And this is why Ossie is so passionate about stroke rehabilitation research, which is being supported by this year’s Life Cycle. He has first-hand experience of its benefits. Rehab has taken him from wanting to die to loving life again.

But his recovery hasn’t been easy.

“I think being a sportsman in my younger days helped me to slip in with the recovery of rehab — rather like the Olympians talk about. It took me two years to learn to write again but I’ve recovered 95% use of my arm and hand now.”

And, of course, the effects of Ossie’s stroke weren’t only physical: “In my working life, I was very used to in standing up in front of and meeting people. And I lost all that confidence.”

But his confidence was partially restored by his campaigning: he created Friends of Stroke Services — known as FOSS — before he had even left the Queen’s Medical Centre wards.

Things quickly progressed from there as Ossie got the bit between his teeth and began to campaign more and more for improvements in stroke rehabilitation. Many stroke survivors become isolated once they leave hospital and Ossie doesn’t think this is good enough. And, of course, he’s not done yet.

So many of the great things Ossie has done in his life have come in the last 13 years — in addition to his professional success and his family life — and all because he had a stroke.

“Truth be told, that would not have happened to me had I not been ill, had I not recovered the way I had, and none of that would’ve been possible without research in the past from people I don’t know, who I’ve never met. That’s why I’m so passionate about research.”

So that’s why Ossie is lending his support to Vice-Chancellor Professor David Greenaway and the other cyclists for Life Cycle 3 as they raise funds for stroke rehabilitation research, one of the key priorities of Impact: The Nottingham Campaign. Because, as Ossie proves, rehabilitation can be life-changing and shows that there really is life after stroke.

To find out more about Life Cycle 3’s community events on Sunday 1 September and stroke rehabilitation research at the University, visit http://nott.ac.uk/cycle 

There is also a raffle to raise money for the cause. To find out about the great prizes and where to buy tickets, visit http://tiny.cc/LC3raffle

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