Decorator 'lost ability to read and write' after suffering stroke while on ventilator with Covid

  • Watch the video report by ITV Wales Correspondent Richard Morgan

A man from Cardiff has spoken about the intense recovery he has had to endure, including learning to read again, after suffering a stroke while seriously ill in hospital with coronavirus.

Geoff Bodman, a 57-year-old painter and decorator from Cardiff caught Covid in March 2020.

A month after being hospitalised at the University Hospital of Wales with the virus, Geoff had a stroke whilst under sedation and on a ventilator.

“Thankfully I have no memory of that time," Geoff explained.

"I know, at one point, the team looking after me didn’t think I’d make it and my wife and family were told to prepare for the worst. I’m so glad that the big man upstairs had other ideas."

Geoff spent 11 weeks in hospital before he was sent home to the applause of those who cared for him - and also from the community where he lives in Tremorfa.

Since then, he has dedicated his time at home, along with the support of his wife, on learning basic skills such as walking again, learning to read and exercising.

Geoff spent 11 weeks in hospital - the majority of which was spent in a coma

It comes as a stroke charity is funding a world first study into the link between Covid-19 and people having strokes.

The Stroke Association says there are concerns Covid may be causing more severe strokes in patients, with the virus increasing the chance of blood clots forming in the brain and blocking blood flow.

Geoff told ITV News, “When they brought me round, I was over the worst of Covid-19 but it was then they told me that I’d had a stroke whilst under sedation. I remember not being able to move my right arm at all. It was really scary. I then spent another month in hospital not only recovering from coronavirus but also recovering from a stroke.”

The stroke had a devastating impact on Geoff. As well as losing movement in his right arm, he lost the ability to read and write.

When Geoff left hospital neighbours lined the streets to welcome him home.

He said, "It wasn't just I lost the use of my arm, I lost the ability to read and write. My memory and my thought process - half way through a conversation I would forget what I was going to say next so that was upsetting.

"Every couple of weeks I feel I’ve made another big step. I’m so fortunate I’ve got an amazing family and friends.” 

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a sudden brain attack often caused by a loss of blood supply.

There are almost 70,000 stroke survivors in Wales, however this figure is expected to rise significantly over the coming years.

The study will investigate differences in stroke patients with and without the virus with the hope of identifying how to avoid the risk of having further attacks.

Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director at the Stroke Association, said, “Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in the UK and the second biggest killer in the world."

Dr Ahmed said it is "extremely concerning" they are seeing people having strokes in ways they have never seen before

"It’s extremely concerning that we’re seeing strokes happening in ways we have not seen before.

"This research is absolutely critical in understanding and treating stroke after Covid-19, to help reduce the devastating effects and ultimately improve lives. Covid-19 is here to stay, so it’s vital we can prevent and treat strokes linked with the virus.

“The pandemic has shattered our fundraised income and is threatening research that drives life-changing breakthroughs in stroke care. As a result of the pandemic, we have had to halve our budget for stroke research."

Geoff has been doing physiotherapy at home and said he feels "hopeful" for the future

Geoff has made a "miraculous" recovery, recovering movement in him arm and re-learning to read and write.

He said "My arm I can stretch, just about, and I still get pain but there's hope. My future is much brighter.

"My progress has been miraculous and even the consultants are amazed at how well I've done."

Wife Julie could do nothing but watch on while Geoff fell ill but now she is helping him reclaim some of what he lost.

She said: "It was tough to watch someone you love actually struggling to read and write again.

"He's such a strong determined positive person, that's really helped him getting better."