Amazing recovery of Norwich man after stroke on a plane

After being told he had just two days to live following a stroke, the family of a Norwich man have today spoken of their joy at the 'miracle' which has seen him return home after eight months in hospital.

Eddie Pleban suffered the devastating stroke in February this year while on a plane with wife Jeannie, coming back from Australia where he was visiting his daughter Sarah, 31, and her family.

The 63-year-old, who worked for YMCA Norfolk for 26 years, then spent eight months in hospitals in Dubai and Norwich trying to recover.

Now Eddie has made a joyful return to his home in Colman Road, where he and his family have told of their ordeal.

Looking back on the day Mr Pleban suffered the stroke, his wife told how she was even asked to go to a cash machine to pay for the ambulance.

You may also want to watch:

As Eddie was whisked away he whispered: 'I love you' to Jeannie – the last words he uttered for over five months.

The couple's nephew Stephen King works in Dubai and was able to comfort Jeannie as she met the consultant at 4.30am after an MRI and CAT scan on Eddie. As a former nurse she was prepared for the worst.

Most Read

'The consultant sat me down and, after looking at the scans, said: 'Your husband has had a stroke on his brain stem. He has 48 hours to live – barring a miracle.' I said to him, 'well, we believe in miracles'.'

One of the first things Jeannie did was start contacting family and friends, asking them to pray for Eddie who was in ICU on a ventilator. He was paralysed below the neck and could not breathe for himself, swallow or talk. But, as his family found out later, Eddie's mind was totally alert and he knew everything that was going on – he just couldn't let anybody know.

Because of the desperate situation – and very poor prognosis – the couple's children decided to fly directly to Dubai. Sarah flew in from Australia, her sister Lila flew from England and the Navy flew brother John from Gibraltar. Louise stayed in Norwich to co-ordinate everything and set up a Facebook group called 'I Love Eddie Pleban' to keep everyone in touch.

'The people of Dubai whom we met were just wonderful,' said Jeannie. 'Many offered to pray for Eddie and one nurse regularly used to sing hymns to him. People all over the world were praying for us and it was very comforting when people of other faiths said that they would pray for Eddie. It seemed like any barriers just disappeared.'

The insurance company eventually agreed to pay for an air ambulance to fly Eddie home, despite doctors not being at all sure if he would survive the trip. He was flown home nine days later in a tiny jet with two pilots and two medical staff.

Jeannie, Sarah and John flew back on a regular flight not knowing whether Eddie was alive or dead.

Eddie said: 'They would not let the family fly back with me because it was a very small plane and if I had died there would have been nowhere for them to go.'

Eddie arrived back at Norwich Airport and was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. He was off the ventilator by now but contracted both norovirus and pneumonia to add to his problems. By this time he had lost three-and-a-half stone.

Eddie said: 'The tracheostomy in my throat was like breathing through a straw. I felt like a pin cushion with all the needles they stuck in me and eventually they could not get blood out of my arms so they went to my feet. That was so painful, but I could not scream.

'I could hear everything and feel everything they did to me. I knew everything that was going on but could not tell anybody – it was like a living nightmare. All I could do was blink my eyelids.

'Eventually a speech therapist gave me a speech board which helped me to communicate by looking at letters and colours.

'The doctors told me I could end up with a tracheostomy for the rest of my life. I tell you I prayed like Billio for eight weeks – nobody knows how much I prayed. I tried to stay positive but there were a couple of times I felt that I could not go on and would be better off dead.'

Jeannie said: 'Eddie could not speak or even smile but his eyes said everything – everyone said that his personality shone through and he kept his sense of humour all the way through.'

Eddie gradually regained his movement, starting first with a thumb, and then his left hand side. After four months in Norwich a speaking valve was connected to the tracheostomy for increasing periods each day and after five months the tracheostomy was finally removed and Eddie began to speak and eat again.

'There was so much I wanted to say and at times I cried with frustration because I just couldn't say it,' said Eddie. And the first words he uttered to Jeannie were exactly the same as the last ones he had said five months before - 'I love you'.

'The doctors told us that the statistics are that there are very few people who even survive the type of stroke that Eddie had and a miniscule number who make any sort of progress,' said Jeannie. 'About three-quarters of Eddie's brain stem was killed by the stroke. There is a little piece which is still alive and the nerves are re-rooting themselves. They told us it was a remarkable recovery and in such a short time.'

Eddie's birthday on June 3, was a real milestone. A whole entourage of staff accompanied him in a wheelchair just outside the hospital door for the first time.

By the end of June Eddie was moved for rehabilitation to Caroline House at the Colman Hospital. Then he had his first shower for nearly five months.

By this stage, Eddie was amazing his medical team and making much more rapid progress that they thought possible. He moved from an electric wheelchair to a self-propelled one and that really helped with the rehabilitation giving him the chance to move himself around.

First he managed to stand up by himself and soon he was inching himself along a set of parallel bars. Tying his own shoelace was a real accomplishment and he was able to use a treadmill with support.

The doctors said they were flabbergasted at Eddie's rapid progress.

'I said to them that when I leave the hospital, I am going to walk out of the door by myself,' said Eddie. And so, on September 28, the staff on duty at Caroline House lined up to watch him walk out by himself.

Speaking in the conservatory of his Colman Road house, days after he returned home, former sailor Eddie said: 'It may seem like a strange thing to say, but I felt like I was just clinging onto Jesus' robes – sometimes I could even feel them. I believe that if it wasn't for my faith I wouldn't be where I am today.

'I want to thank my entire family for the way they have supported me and Jeannie is the top of the lot - she has stood by me every step of the way.'

This storty appeared courtesy of

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter