COLIN Osborn left the house three years ago a fit, strong man, a 42-year-old self-employed roofer who pushed himself to work seven days a week and rarely took holidays.
When he didn’t return to his Pinchbeck home his wife Kate worried and by the morning she knew something was wrong and went looking for him with her friend Penny Bristow.
They discovered him just up the lane from the friend’s house he had been visiting, sitting in his van, unable to speak and barely able to walk.
It took four weeks for Colin to be diagnosed, and by that time he had had three strokes and lost his speech and his mobility.
They were in a very dark place at that time and feel that, because of Colin’s age, there was no support in place for them. Their daughter Melissa, who was studying for A-levels at the time but who is now 20, took over the care of her father and her younger siblings Vanessa (now 17), Billy (12) and Connor (11) for three months so that Kate could complete her finals and gain her teaching degree – she teaches at Boston High School.
Colin’s GP Dr Richard Beatty referred him to a speech therapist at Pilgrim Hospital, and it was she who put him in touch with the Intermediate Care Team at Johnson Hospital, “an incredible team of people”, according to Kate. They carried out an assessment of the home, provided physiotherapy and carried on the speech therapy.
When he began to feel slightly better and decided it was time to start going out, Colin volunteered with the Friday Friendship Club for adults with disabilities in Spalding and somebody there put him in touch with the Stoke Association.
When he discovered there was a Stroke Support Group in the town he started volunteering for it and in time was given a three-month paid contract to act as Family & Carer Support Co-ordinator for South Holland & Boston, to run the group and undertake home visits.
The group is made up of people from all backgrounds, and many are ex-Forces, such as one woman who did maintenance on Spitfires. The support group works on communication, organising activities that will get members talking, particularly activities that involve both speech and memory, with people pairing up to share skills.
Colin knows from his own experience that people who have suffered a stroke should never give up and that it is possible to improve. This time last year he was in a wheelchair, but says his main problems now are balance, which means he has to walk with a stick, memory and speech, and the stick is the only outward sign that anything is amiss.
Colin has also returned to Spalding Amateur Boxing Club, which he runs with friend Lee Grainger, and it is Lee and Penny who he says have remained staunch supporters thoughout his illness.
When the Stroke Support Group’s funding was stopped as part of government cut-backs, Colin knew he had to carry on regardless on a voluntary basis because he understands how critical that support is to stroke victims.
Colin says: “I know what they have been through and the group is helping them with speech and it is someone to talk to.
“It was fantastic for me to be back at work but my thought was if they stopped the group these people have nowhere else to go. I think it should be funded and they shouldn’t have to fight for money.”
The next meeting is at the Ivo Day Centre in Spalding on June 14 – contact Colin on 07536 023870 to find out more.