AN ANDOVER woman has launched a support group after suffering a stroke 20 years ago.

Annie Burton is still living with communication difficulties after a stroke she had when she was 37-years-old in 1997.

She was home alone with her young daughter when she collapsed and was not found until the next day by her husband.

The stroke left her unable to speak or move her body, and her memory was also seriously affected to the extent that she did not know she had a daughter and could not recognise her husband.

Annie could not understand what anyone was saying to her after her stroke, and a few days later she realised she could only understand and speak German.

The 60-year-old said: “My husband was in the army, so I had lived in Germany for over three years. I understood some German, but English has always been my first language.

"After my stroke it was truly frightening, my world came crashing down. I was in a coma for some time before waking up and not being able to speak, move or remember a thing.

“Thankfully I am so lucky to have the most supportive family who helped me every step of the way in my recovery. I had speech and language therapy for over five years.

“My daughter Amy was my rock. She was so young, but took on big responsibilities to help me, like putting me on a bus and asking the driver to take us to the hospital for my therapy.

"I felt so alone after my stroke, but I made sure that I pushed myself to get all the help I could. I used to travel over seven miles each week by bus to get to college to relearn English again.

And now Annie has started a local support group to help others with aphasia.

She added: “One of the most difficult things for me is how everyone assumes I’m OK, because they can’t see how my stroke has affected me. I still struggle with aphasia today, and sometimes find it hard to find a word I want to say.

"Aphasia is hidden until you speak, it can make you feel ashamed to speak or anxious about what people think. This is why I’ve started a local stroke group with the Stroke Association for people who have aphasia.

"I find it really rewarding to help others who are going through what I have been through, and supporting them in their recovery.”

The Stroke Association’s Lost for Words campaign aims to raise awareness of the challenges stroke survivors with communication difficulties can face, as well as help and support them.

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