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24 Jan 2020 Personal Stories

“People shouldn’t feel frightened about coming to Kirkwood, it isn’t just about death.”

After Paula Howarth suffered a stroke on the 20th August last year, she was unsure where to turn to for help and support in her journey to recovery. Weeks after her stroke, Paula was invited by her Local Occupational Therapist to attend Kirkwood’s GOAL programme, where the Kirkwood team would continue to help her regain her confidence, independence and enable her to make future plans.

Paula, age 51, from Dalton, was struggling to come to terms with life after her stroke, and the side effects which she was experiencing. These included difficulties with her speech and acceptance of what had happened.

Unbeknown to Paula, Kirkwood’s Support & Therapy Centre, just around the corner from her home, was about to start their 12 week GOAL programme (Getting on and Living) – a course which supports people living with a range of neurological conditions to increase confidence. It’s also a chance for attendees to talk to others who are going through a similar experience.

Paula said: “My Locala Occupational Therapist asked me if I would like to attend Kirkwood’s GOAL session as the first service user who’d had a stroke.

 “I thought:’ Kirkwood? Isn’t that a place where you spend your final days?’”

Paula learnt more about the service and what it offered, and decided to give it a go just in time for the new session to start in September.

“In such a short space of time, Mary, Support & Therapy Manager, picked up on my anxiety. Mary suggested that I try a treatment with the Complementary Therapy team - which was amazing and really helped me.

“I can’t believe that I was frightened to go to Kirkwood; it is not a scary or sad place when you’re there.”

 Paula (left) with Support & Therapy Manager, Mary Tyrrell Place (right)


Pre-stroke, Paula led a busy and hectic lifestyle working as a hairdresser and teaching Hair and Beauty in Bradford. She also enjoyed spending time with her family.

Before attending the GOAL sessions, Paula found it difficult adapting to a slower pace of life, and taking time for herself.

“Kirkwood has given me acceptance. All of the sessions have taught me that it is okay to not be okay.

“I am now thinking positively. Before, I could only talk and cry at Kirkwood, but now I am making future plans and setting myself goals.

“I felt safe being at Kirkwood, when I am there I don’t feel frightened; the team are just wonderful and supportive.

Paula has now completed the 12 week GOAL programme and is making plans to start a counselling course now that she has finished her teaching degree.

“People shouldn’t feel frightened about coming to Kirkwood, it isn’t just about death. Attending the GOAL group has been very beneficial to me, the peer support was great.

“Even if you just take a little step, its progress; take each step at a time.”

“I am going to continue setting myself goals for the future to focus on.”

Support & Therapy Manager, Mary, added: “We are so pleased that Paula has found GOAL beneficial to her. The main aims of these sessions are to enable people to focus on what is important to them and set goals around this. Paula is always welcome back at Kirkwood for a cuppa and a chat anytime.”

If you, or someone you know, would like to find out more about GOAL and the services we offer here in Kirkwood’s Support & Therapy Centre, please call our team on: 01484 557900 or visit: bit.ly/2GkUXpG

"The idea of including stroke survivors came from one of my visits to the Locala therapy team. When we were talking about our GOAL programme, It became apparent that a lot of the content was very relevant to people who had been affected by a stroke.

People who have had a stroke can report challenges with fatigue, anxiety, speech and keeping active as well as anxiety about it happening again. We decided to trial the content on two people who have recently had a stroke. 

We found that as well as the patients reporting benefit from the GOAL morning, they offered huge support to other people living with other neurological conditions too. The beauty of a self-management group is that peer support in itself can support people to live well and achieve what is important to them.

Working in partnership with Locala was key to making this trial a success. We are all trying to help the same people to live well, so working together makes it so much easier and keeps the patient at the heart of it all." Mary Tyrrell Place (Support & Therapy Manager)

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