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Everybody needs a Vera in their lives

Eugene Leavy had a stroke at the age of 50 but with hard work, the support of his wife Vera and family, and help from the Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Support Group, he has made a remarkable recovery

“Our miracle man” that is how Seamus Casey, Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Support Co Ordinator in Drogheda described Eugene Leavy, a member of the Dundalk Stroke support group.

Eugene who lives in Dundalk had a stroke in 2010 at the age of just 50. Prior to this life changing event stroke worked as an instructor in FAS (now SOLAS) and lived a full and active life. Unfortunately, the stroke left Eugene reliant on a wheelchair, unable to lift a cup to his mouth and completely reliant on his wife Vera to help him with everyday needs such as washing and personal care.

Eugene spent 6 months in the Stroke Rehabilitation Unit at Louth County Hospital and both he and Vera paid huge credit to the care he received there.

Vera attended the inpatient physiotherapy sessions with Eugene every day and when he was discharged home, she kept up the physio sessions having learned a lot during the previous 6 months and she continued to encourage Eugene to do a little every day.

The stroke left Eugene reliant on a wheelchair, unable to lift a cup to his mouth and completely reliant on his wife Vera to help him with everyday needs

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In 2016 Eugene (again on Vera’s advice) joined the Irish Heart Foundation’s Drogheda Stroke Support Group where he took part in regular weekly exercise sessions.

A week or two in to their membership Eugene started taking an interest in the exercise but was making very little progress, it was here that Vera stepped in.

From watching what was going in the group settings Vera decided that all the exercise were available in an old style” hopscotch” so got herself some chalk and set up her hopscotch grid in the back yard of their house. Vera then got Eugene out of his chair, put his arm around his shoulder and hopped and skipped Eugene up and down the yard every day increasing the work load daily with Eugene showing signs at the group that he was progressing.

On the first day she said we do one step, two on day two and three on day three and so on, Eugene explained.

“It was slow laborious work but I can’t say enough about Vera, everyone needs a Vera,” he said.

Eugene also said that his stroke consultant had advised Vera and their son not to go easy on Eugene and to show him some “tough love.”

“They carried out that advice to the letter,” he smiled.

“It was slow laborious work but I can’t say enough about Vera, everyone needs a Vera,”

Eugene Leavy

A couple of months in to this regime Eugene proudly stood up at a meeting and announced, “you know when I joined I couldn’t hold a cup of tea up to my mouth, well last night myself and Vera went out for our first meal together and I was able to cut my own steak”.

“When I used a knife and fork for the first time a tear went down Vera’s face,” Eugene recalled.

Eugene’s hard work and Vera’s tough love started to pay off and Eugene regained the ability to walk with the aid of sticks.

Eugene described the relief he felt on joining the stroke support group as he realised that there were “people in the same position as me.”

With the help of the group and of course Vera’s unending support he continued to make progress.

“I couldn’t bathe or shower myself after the stroke when I joined the group within 6 months I could, that was a big hurdle to get over,” Eugene said.

" When I used a knife and fork for the first time a tear went down Vera’s face,”

Eugene Leavy

A decade on from his stroke Eugene, who at one stage couldn’t lift a cup to his mouth, has recently designed, manufactured and installed a kitchen in his son’s new house.

As a house warming present Vera gave their son Eugene’s electric lawnmower and replaced it with a push mower so that Eugene would get more exercise.

“Vera says you can go for a walk or cut the grass,” Eugene said.

“I have come a long way I will never work again but I can do things as long as I stay within my parameter and know that it is going to take ten times longer than normal and I have plenty of patience,” he added.

“I would encourage people to join a stroke support group in their area it does help,” Eugene said.

Eugene said nowadays he is always busy, pottering in his work shed, going for his daily walk, swimming and cutting the grass as well of course.