Health: Leeds United star rebuilds his life after stroke

Brendon Ormsby with his 10k team

Brendon Ormsby with his 10k team

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Brendon Ormsby’s family were determined to get him back on his feet after a terrible stroke. Katie Baldwin reports.

As the former captain of Leeds United, Brendon Ormsby was used to pushing himself physically.

Brendon Ormsby with his 10k team

Brendon Ormsby with his 10k team

So when he suffered a devastating stroke just before Christmas, his family knew the way to help him recover was to give him a goal.

“From day one we were making him move his toes because we know that’s in-bred,” his wife Wendy said.

As she had done the Jane Tomlinson Leeds 10k before, it sprung to mind and a not long after his stroke, she signed him up.

“We thought we would do it, even if he couldn’t,” she said.

But thanks to a remarkable recovery, he is preparing to take part in the event on July 20, with Wendy, their son Liam and his girlfriend Marianne, as well as other family and friends by his side.

He can now jog for around 20 minutes and Wendy knows he’s likely to aim to run as far as he can.

“It’s been a worthwhile goal,” she said. “I bet it’s the same for a lot of people coming back from this because it gives you something to aim for.”

The former United central defender, who also played for Aston Villa, Doncaster, Scarborough and Wigan, suffered a stroke on December 22 last year.

It affected his whole body, but primarily his right side, and the 53-year-old cannot remember the first few months afterwards.

In fact the effects were so serious that medics warned Wendy that her husband may not walk again.

However she was determined to give him as much support as possible to enable him to make the best recovery possible.

“It’s unbelievable the improvement he has made in these few months,” she said.

“From the first day we were positive that he would walk and he did. We are still positive.”

Now, when she is at work, family or friends come round to help Brendon with activities to assist he rehabilitation, like speech exercises.

“When he came out of hospital, I was determined that he wouldn’t be on his own,” she said.

“He’s not going to learn without interaction, and we have been doing that. I was determined to do it for him.”

Since his stroke, Brendon has made huge steps.

Through going to the gym regularly, he can run for 20 minutes on a treadmill and do most of the same exercises he used to.

However his speech and literacy has been affected, which is very tough to cope with.

“He’s made a lot of improvement over the six months though he hasn’t got sentences,” said Wendy, 53.

“It’s difficult for him, it’s frustrating – he tries to say a word but his mouth is doing something else.”

She added that though he was struggling to read, his writing ability is returning.

“Where he can’t point to an object or say it, he can write it down and then sometimes he can say it. He’s made a lot of headway.”

But Wendy says it has been a struggle to ensure her husband gets the support he needs, and to enable her to get the financial help necessary since she has had to go part-time so she can care for Brendon.

She said the dramatic after-effects of stroke weren’t very well-understood.

“Having a stroke and the aftermath, I don’t think people realise what it’s like,” she added.

“We’ve had amazing support from York Hospital Community Stroke Team who have provided Brendon with speech therapy and physiotherapy.”

Brendon and his family will raise money for the Stroke Association through the 10k, in recognition of the charity’s support and they help they give stroke survivors.

It runs Life After Stroke Support Services in Yorkshire, providing practical advice, essential information and emotional support.

This can include access to support groups and communication workshops, help for carers, assistance with social activities and with returning to work.

Julia MacLeod, regional head of operations for the Stroke Association said: “A stroke can happen in an instant but its effects can last a lifetime.

“It’s wonderful to hear that Brendon is recovering well and seeing him challenge himself with the Leeds 10k is testament to his sheer determination.”

* To donate to Brendon’s fundraising, visit www.justgiving.com/run4brendonormsby.

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