Fish Hoek holiday ‘heals’ stroke victim

2017-07-04 06:00
David and Rita Guthrie.

David and Rita Guthrie.

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From being wheelchair-bound to hiking Noordhoek Peak – a stroke survivor’s remarkable recovery, aided by the climate and carers of Fish Hoek, has now been chronicled in a book.

After being told she had “no capacity for recovery”, hope was the last thing stroke victim Rita Guthrie and her husband David thought a seaside holiday would bring.

But while the English couple was visiting in Fish Hoek, they saw a glimpse of the full recovery Rita could make.

Rita survived a life-threatening stroke that left her with multiple physical and cognitive disabilities. After 27 months Rita had made little progress in overcoming her disabilities and, as her carer, David was overworked and stressed.

Health and care professionals in the Guthries’ home in the United Kingdom concluded that she should be placed in a home, but David knew it was not the answer to her recovery.

“By the time that prognosis was made, I was expecting it. Actually I was relieved because it cleared the air. Rita, now defined as a no-hoper, was not going to be given any more treatment. I was not going to place her in a care home, so the only viable alternative became a trip to Cape Town. That decided it,” says David.

David took a friend’s advice and took Rita to Fish Hoek in 2010 for a holiday, where they found therapists confident in Rita’s ability to recover who set up a rehabilitation programme.

“The most immediate highlight was the ‘can do’ attitude from pretty well everyone we met in the south peninsula. Everyone was so helpful,” he says.

They both loved the many “spectacular places” to visit “that renewed Rita’s interest in life”, the wide range of good restaurants and cafes “and, of course, the climate”, explains David.

“Luckily, Rita likes a good wind!” he adds.

“After the first visit together, we always looked forward to returning. At first, our three children were concerned and worried at us travelling 9000km to a ‘dangerous’ country, but very soon came round to the idea that it was by far the best thing to do.”

It took 18 months and three trips to Fish Hoek, but Rita made an almost complete recovery. When she arrived in Fish Hoek in 2010, Rita had to use a wheelchair for all outings outside the house. Three years later, she hiked to the summit of Noordhoek Peak.

“I think it was during our third visit that the therapists and I set a target of having Rita fully recovered. That showed what could be done with a positive attitude and plenty of time to work; neither had been available to us in the UK,” he says.

“The treatment was highly successful due to the competence, enthusiasm and positive outlook of the South African therapists and carers; and also to the fact that Rita was herself determined to work hard at recovery. Now she enjoys excellent health with no physical disabilities, the only remaining problem being a rather suspect short-term memory.”

David has now penned his experience, in a book titled Pushing the Boundaries, a Personal Account of Recovery from Stroke, offering support and advice to people who find themselves caring for a loved one who has suffered a stroke.

“The nature of stroke is such that it is not possible to guarantee a recovery, but I hope to give encouragement to other severely disabled stroke survivors and their main carers that a good recovery may be possible – given the determination to work hard at recovery by both the survivor and carer, and with success in setting up appropriate therapy to treat their particular disabilities,” he says.

V Pushing the Boundaries, a Personal Account of Recovery from Stroke is available via email to orders­@yps-publishing.co.uk or on Amazon.

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