Couple tell MPs and peers about stroke research

John and Paula Smejka at Westminster. EMN-151201-181432001
John and Paula Smejka at Westminster. EMN-151201-181432001

A stroke survivor from Navenby and his wife have been to Westminster to speak to an All Party Parliamentary Group about the condition.

John Smejka, 57, had a devastating stroke in 2011, just six months before he and his wife Paula were due to get married.

John’s stroke left him needing a wheelchair and 24-hour care due to difficulties in communicating and weakness on his right side.

Paula, who became John’s carer, said: “John was super-energetic and fit, and within an instant, everything changed.”

John and Paula chose to become involved in a number of research studies aimed at improving care for other people who have had a stroke, especially those with communication difficulties.

Paula said: “There are so many stroke survivors in the UK, with many different difficulties, finding new ways to recover from a stroke is important to everyone.

“Being involved in medical research not only helped John improve his communication techniques but also his confidence and will to confront the difficulties the stroke has left him with. Research has given purpose to my husband’s life, structure to his weeks and hope for his future.”

The All Party Parliamentary Group brings together MPs and members of the House of Lords to consider the latest developments in stroke care; it was holding a special meeting to look at the importance of funding medical research.

John, Paula and Paula’s son, Cameron, 15, all attended the meeting and shared their experiences and the benefits of being involved in research.

The meeting included evidence from the Stroke Association showing that despite strokes being one of the UK’s biggest killers and a leading cause of adult disability, funding per person for research is about one fifth that of cancer, and less than half for dementia.

Paula added: “The Stroke Association made it very clear that there is hope. I especially felt positive about the potential future research projects and what they could do for our next generation.

“It was also encouraging that the Government minister with responsibility for medical research was present and that we had the opportunity to put our views on stroke and the need for further research into new treatments directly to him.”

Group chairman, Helen Jones, MP for Warrington North, said members are determined to ensure a higher priority in the future.