Alice Denham, from Beccles, suffered an aneurism in 2011. Her recovery programme involved Nordic walking and now she is an instructor. Picture: Nick Butcher

“I remember crying non-stop in the shower thinking who am I? Who is this new version of Alice?”

Saturday, February 2, 2013
8.00 AM

Struggling to speak and suffering from high blood pressure and an erratic pulse, Alice Denham felt alone.

She had managed to survive a life-threatening stroke, but 10 months later her health recovery had stalled and she was not coping.

At her lowest ebb she learnt of an exercise referral scheme, and signed up to classes in Beccles with the hope that it could help her health improve.

Today, another 10 months later, the 49-year-old’s life has been turned around and now she leads Nordic walking classes for people in a similar position to her, and is preparing for a charity challenge to raise money for the hospitals that treated her and raise awareness of the scheme.

In April 2011 Alice Denham, of New Market, Beccles, suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage following a ruptured aneurysm in her brain.

Her sister had suffered a similar problem two years earlier, and suddenly Mrs Denham was hit by the same life-threatening stroke.

The mother-of-three had a month in intensive care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, but after being discharged she still had a long road to recovery.

“The stroke left me having to relearn the art of speaking fluently and being able to write again,” she said.

“I was having great difficulty. Summing up the energy required on a daily basis to speak is unbearably tiring. I remember crying non-stop in the shower thinking who am I? Who is this new version of Alice?

“Trying to pull out every word you have ever spoken in your life from what felt like the treacle that was my brain was so lonely and extremely frustrating.”

Alice, who is a freelance e-learning consultant, admits she was in a “very dark place” as she felt her recovery had stopped, and, if anything, she felt her health was deteriorating.

But it was at this point she learnt about exercise referral through East Coast Community Healthcare’s Charles Allen.

The NHS funded programme encourages exercise to help the flow of oxygen around the body, which in turn can dramatically improve overall health.

Alice signed up for an hourly exercise session three times a week, through the community hub at Seasons Health Club, in Hungate, and this helped her to make significant progress.

“Improving the oxygen to the brain was instrumental in improving my speech and writing and general well being. Each week I could see how I was improving,” she said.

“If I did not have this I would not have made the progress I have made in the time frame. I have been told by my speech therapist that I should not be at this stage, and I am convinced it is majorly because of exercise.”

Alice particularly enjoyed Nordic walking, which uses poles to propel the walker, and although she says she will never fully recover, through this she has seen her speech improve and blood pressure return to normal.

Such has been her success she has now trained as an instructor and leads an advanced class on a Sunday morning.

Together they walk around the area enjoying the fresh air and nature as they improve their health.

Charles Allen, adult lead physical activity coordinator at East Coast Community Healthcare, said he has seen Alice’s health improve dramatically, but it does take the individual to make it happen.

“I estimate this has saved the NHS £4,600 a year, as she is not seeing consultants and not having medication. I want to show people how exercise can improve your life and that you can achieve things most people don’t believe are possible.”

In June, Alice is planning to do a four-day 110-mile sponsored walk from the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, to Addenbooke’s.

She will be joined by fellow aneurysm survivors Trevor Payne, of Beccles, and Linda Brigdland, of Wroxham, as well as Mr Allen.

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