Former singer who suffered life-threatening stroke rediscovers voice through music therapy

A former singer, who suffered a life-threatening stroke last year, has rediscovered his voice thanks to music therapy.

46-year-old Richard Rees, from Neath, was rushed to Morriston Hospital in Swansea after falling ill at his home in May last year.

Richard underwent emergency treatment and his family were told to prepare for the worst.

"I was at home. I felt something crack in the back of my head and I said to my partner, we have a problem, I'm going to have a stroke," he recalled, "lo and behold, I was right.

"There was no ambulance available so I had to get driven in by my next door neighbour. My niece and my partner put me in the car because my right side had already started to go.

"I came into A&E and I was in resus for three-four days. It was quite serious. My partner was told on a number of occasions to prepare for the worst."

Richard was left unable to walk and talk and began intense therapy to return his speech and mobility. 

Although he still has a long way to go, Richard can walk again, enjoys singing and playing the drums.

The former club singer was referred to Morriston Hospital's brain injury service where he underwent a 12-week music therapy course. 

Richard initially believed he would never sign again although, with encouragement from music therapist Jo Humphreys from the charity Nordoff Robbins, he's back doing what he loves most. 

"We would drum every week just to try to make my hands and my arms work more, to get my brain to tell my arm what it should be doing," Richard said.

"I used to be in a brass band but I also used to lead the band on parade, so drumming was second nature.

"Then we tried singing, and that’s what we did – a bit of drumming, a bit of singing.

"For the last five weeks, it was only singing, because I was quite comfortable with the singing, which I never thought I would be able to do again."

Jo said people with a stroke or other brain injury not only faced physical but emotional challenges too. Credit: Swansea Bay University Health Board

Jo said Richard has shown great courage to take up signing again and has been delighted with the progress he has made.

"I had faith that he had this enormous musical and creative potential that it would be useful for him to reconnect with and explore further.

"So from those first few tentative beats on the drum to now being up performing whole songs, it’s an enormous privilege to have seen his confidence grow, his self-belief.

"That’s the most significant thing that I have seen over our time together, I would say. Seeing now how that confidence can translate into other areas of his life."

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