Informed that most people don't survive a stroke of this magnitude, little did we know that this first major achievement was one of many mountains to climb for a very long time. When describing how life changing an event like this is, I like to use the analogy of an iceberg. It is only partners, committed family members, and loyal friends who get a sense of the real gravity of this situation, others see just a mere tip. One thing is certain, lives of those around him are changed for ever. In the early days after his stroke, there was a lot of confusion and shock as there is with any unforseen tragedy. Thank goodness the human shock response numbs senses and the adrenalin keeps the body functioning!.. It's not until later that the massive sense of loss and grieving starts to surface.. Looking back, denial of the enormity of the stroke certainly had its place, as where there was denial, hope remained. Ignorance was NOT bliss but it sure bought the opportunity to explore as many possibilities as humanly possible. After the stark reality sets in, then acceptance of the new situation eventually starts to unravel, but never completely, as old memories of what 'used to be' visit with some frequency still. Its like being constantly held in the grieving process as there is no finality to this situation. He really is a true 'survivor' - he finds a way to climb his mountains one way or another!. He wont give up. He was determined and stubborn before his stroke and that is something that hasn't changed. A flaccid arm, the inability to walk correctly, and Aphasia are the results of his brain injury. Aphasia means he understands everything that he is told ( as his intellectual ability is unaffected), however the ability to execute speech is damaged. The correct words are in his head but they just cant get out! He wishes so much that he could just open his mouth and talk freely. Add to that sometimes yes means no and no means yes and its all very tricky!. On a good day though he can string about 6 words together. There is potential to improve so long as there is the combination of his own motivation and input from others, either formal support services or informal support via friends and family. Living with Aphasia adds a whole new dimension for him as it is imperative that he has input into his own decisions. Stats reveal that having a sense of control in our own lives is directly linked with better health and wellbeing outcomes. This major determining factor was overlooked in the early days after his stroke and the consequences of those decisions have left a permanent scar, but I have no doubt he will climb his way up that mountain as well. I think of the road he is now travelling is like riding a figure 8. There is no end and no beginning, just round and round with each step forward building layer upon layer, all the while increasing the foundations on which he stands. For me to witness such positive thinking in extreme adversity deserves maximum respect. He is a role model for my children and inspiration beyond mere words, not many are capable of such an internal feat. Not only does he conquer his own personal challenges, he has to battle with external barriers as well; the loss of relationships of friends and family; the frustration of knowing what he needs versus what he's going to get; stigma and discrimination; and the list goes on. Despite these extra barriers, he marches on. His life is very busy between his new achievements as an artist, and as a goalie for Wanganui Roller Hockey – yes Roller Hockey! He is very proud to be back a part of his team. Although technically he can't 'skate' he can shuffle and sit in the goal with his one working arm defending his goal from hockey balls which travel at incredible speeds. He is also a one armed potter, and a one armed sword fighter. He was, is and will continue to be an exceptional and extra- ordinary man who I for one have been lucky enough to have been a part of his unique life. Whilst I wish that this tragedy never happened, we have to take out of this the strengths and learnings that can be had, to focus on the loss alone walls will crack! I have also come to witness that out of great human losses can come growth in ways that words can not define. These gains are reserved for those who have not only the courage, but the resilience, spirit, faith and sheer bloody will to push beyond their own limits. carla.