Londonderry men Eugene Rankin and Oran McBride, both of whom had life-changing strokes, encourage others that there is life after stroke

Eugene Rankin with his family following his stroke four years agoEugene Rankin with his family following his stroke four years ago
Eugene Rankin with his family following his stroke four years ago
​Two Londonderry men who both had unexpected life-changing strokes are sharing their experiences to raise awareness that a stroke can happen to anyone, at any time, no matter their age, how fit they might be or how healthy a life they might lead.

​When Eugene Rankin heard a strange noise in his head whilst working, he never could have imagined it would lead to a stroke at the age of 61, and a four-year life-changing recovery journey.

Eugene recalled: “I was in the yard working on my lorry when out of the blue I heard a noise in my forehead. I knew I was in real trouble- my body just told me. I started to walk towards my house and when I got to the grass at the back of it, I had to get myself to the ground as I knew I wouldn’t make it any further and I didn’t want to fall on concrete. I knew I had had a stroke as the power had gone on my left-hand side.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Eugene was taken by ambulance to Altnagelvin Hospital, got through A&E, was scanned and in a ward within an hour.

Londonderry man Oran McBride, who  had a severe stroke at 53Londonderry man Oran McBride, who  had a severe stroke at 53
Londonderry man Oran McBride, who had a severe stroke at 53

“My left side was completely paralysed, even my stomach - I didn’t feel hunger or anything.”

Eugene had three months of physio at Altnagelvin and was then moved to Waterside Hospital for further rehab. He was discharged from hospital with the Covid pandemic started and his physiotherapy continued at home. “That’s when I was put in touch with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke. They really helped get me back on my feet,” he said.

Eugene attended the charity’s Post Rehab Exercise Programme (PREP). PREP is a physiotherapy-led, community-based course which helps rebuild people's lives after stroke through exercise and education.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Eugene said “PREP was great. The exercises were really useful as I was determined to recover as best I could. I also still go to the charity’s Wellness Sessions which give lots of great information about staying healthy, exercise and looking after your mental wellbeing. I think that is particularly important because you have good days but there are also days when there is an element of grieving for the person you were before you had a stroke. For me, going from being an active person, working etc. It was an awful shock to the system.”

Eugene decided he wanted to fundraise for NICHS so he and his family organised a social evening which raised a phenomenal £12,170.

He added: “I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have a stroke, but it can happen to anyone. I would tell people, there is light at the end of the tunnel after a stroke however. The light might not be there every day, but it is there. You don’t have to give up on life.”

Oran McBride also didn’t give up on life when he had a severe stroke three years ago at just 53 years old. Oran went from exercising six days a week to having to learn how to walk and talk again.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: “One morning I felt something like a spasm in my right calf. It felt like it was jumping by itself, and it just didn’t seem right to me because I trained six days a week and was super fit, but it was like nothing I had felt before.”

“I sat down for about 10 minutes but when I got up the spasm started again. I went to Altnagelvin Hospital and had a CT scan. The results didn’t show anything up, but the doctors said they were going to keep me in for monitoring and at that stage I thought I might get home the next day. When I woke up the next morning and tried to move however, my movement on the right side of my body had gone. There was nothing, absolutely no movement- it was terrifying.”

Oran added: “This was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was on my own and I didn’t know what was happening. The doctors eventually explained I had had a complete blockage to my brain. They also said my blood pressure levels were at a critically high level. I was given medication and they got my blood pressure under control as much as possible but by that stage it was too late for me to have the clot busting drug, Thrombolysis, and unfortunately, I just had to let nature take its course.”

Oran started rehab within a few days of being admitted to hospital.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The rehab team at the hospital were brilliant. I had to relearn how to walk, how to talk, and to try and use my hands again. I spent a month in Altnagelvin Hospital and was then transferred to Waterside Hospital where I spent a further month completing rehab.”

Oran also attended PREP and found the charity’s support invaluable.

“PREP has helped me physically but mentally it’s really helped too. The team provide great support and information to help you on your recovery.”

Oran recently did a triathalon in aid of NICHS, raising £4,000 and has an inspirational way of looking at his stroke.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I try and take the positives out of what I have and what I can do. Every day is another day and that's a good day.”

Ursula Ferguson, director of Care Services at Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) said: “Our team works across Northern Ireland with people of all ages affected by stroke, alongside their families and carers. They are dedicated to supporting people in adjusting to life with a stroke condition, helping them to enjoy life to the full, re-engage with hobbies, and improve their confidence, independence, and quality of life.”

If you have been affected by stroke and need support visit