Margaret Owen (McNab)

My name is Margaret and I am from Inveraray.

I was living and happily working as a home help, until one day in 2004, when my life was turned upside down. 

I was sitting on my stairs putting on my shoes, as I was heading to work. I realised I was struggling to reach my feet and shouted for a family member to help.  Initially they thought that I was joking until they realised that my face was lopsided.  I slid down the stairs, hitting my shoulder on the bannister on the way down.  It was very frightening.  

I was taken to a hospital where to my family's dismay they were told, 'There is nothing we can do', before transferring me to specialists at the Southern General in Glasgow.   I had suffered a severe stroke and required months of rehabilitation, intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy.  It took months before I could communicate with my family, a difficult time for us all. 

My children were 11 and 14 at the time and I missed them terribly.  I missed special moments like my daughter's leaving ceremony from primary school, which would have been harder to bear if it wasn't for thoughtful friends recording the whole event for me.

Around six years ago, I was encouraged to attend a coffee morning in the MS Centre.  Whilst there I saw a Zumba gold class advertised and asked Centre staff about it.  Despite using a wheelchair the staff reassured me that I would be able to participate. Initially shy, I realised it was a class for all abilities and with each class my confidence was soon increasing.   I love Zumba and six years on I still attend the class every week.  

I then started receiving regular massage and craniosacral therapies and attending more events in the Centre, all the time widening my circle of friends and peer support.  When we started a programme of Living Well workshops I thought I would struggle to participate, as I only have use of one arm and was still mostly using my wheelchair.   The motivation from the whole team gave me the courage to focus on what we all could do rather than couldn't do.   I surprised myself by joining in with making lanterns, Spanish cooking and even tango dancing.  Most people had only seen me sitting in my chair, however, staff knew I could stand for short periods of time.  I came along to watch the tango class, never thinking I would be joining in.  With support from the teachers I was held securely, given time to calm myself and feel confident standing before taking my first dance steps in many years.  I was too focussed to notice everyone else in the room.  Later I was told that as I was held and taking the first tango steps, everyone had a lump in their throats.  That night on my Facebook page my Centre friends had all left messages congratulating me, which was moving and lovely.  I had no idea the impact I had on others. 

I enrolled on the Giraffe healthcare programme and started attending the weekly class.  I knew that I was working hard, and could stand more easily from a seated position.  What I didn't know was that others were being inspired by how well was doing until I won the best improved prize recently and everyone told me they were proud of me.  I had no idea my story was inspiring others, and it is lovely to think that some positivity has come from me sharing my journey, which is why I offered to share it here.  

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