St Albans stroke survivor fundraising to repay medical team who saved his life and restore his independence
PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 May 2018
We spoke to the wife of stroke survivor Harvey Astell, who is raising money for a special trike to restore his independence after being left paralysed.
A 51-year-old man who survived a near-fatal stroke, a heart attack and being defibrillated is raising money to help the medical team who saved his life.
Harvey Astell, 51, of Shirley Road, was driving along Cell Barnes Lane in August last year after visiting the chip shop with his sister-in law, when he suffered a stroke, which paralysed him while his foot was on the throttle.
His sister-in-law pulled the handbrake and the van came to a halt on the roundabout outside the Village Shop.
She phoned Harvey’s wife Nicky at around 5.50pm, who raced to see them and accompanied the ambulance to Watford General Hospital.
“The doctor came up to me and said not to hold out hope”, Nicky said.
They gave him a drug which could either work, not work or give him brain damage. Harvey was halfway through his dose when the doctor said he had to go to the stroke unit at St George’s Hospital in London.
They stopped the drug and called a helicopter as a whole side of Harvey’s brain had gone, but the helicopter could not land and instead they had to take an hour-long trip in an ambulance.
Nicky recalled that once they got there she told them: “You have 15 minutes to restart the drug.
“But they said the drug had reduced the clot in Harvey’s brain and they did not want to operate on him.”
Harvey stayed at St George’s for two days while he was completely paralysed and only able to communicate with his wife by blinking.
He then transferred back to the stroke unit at Watford, where he stayed for a couple of months and had to relearn to walk, talk and swallow while his entire right-hand side was paralysed.
While he was recovering, he suffered a heart attack in October and in November had to be defibrillated and fitted with a tube in his heart due to a condition called cardiomyopathy.
Harvey had been at Langley House in Watford, but only stayed a week before moving back home as it made him depressed.
“He has been through hell and back, but he is getting there.”
Recently, Nicky bumped into one of the doctors who helped save her husband’s life by stopping a bleed to his brain, and he told her none of the staff thought he would leave the hospital alive and they were amazed with what he has done and his determination to pull through.
Harvey now visits stroke victims at Watford to talk about his experiences as a way of encouraging them.
However he was not always so certain. Nicky said: “Harvey had been in a downward spiral, so his therapists pushed him to get something to do and he decided to get a trike.”
The three-wheeled vehicles have users use pedals in front of them and their hands by their side to control gears, but Harvey’s has had to be specially designed so it can be controlled from his left-hand side as his right hand is still paralysed.
Nicky said: “It’s given him a bit of independence and a sense of purpose to do something.”
He previously rode motorbikes and enjoyed driving Caterham cars, but has had to give them up following his stroke.
Instead, Harvey intends to take the trike around Clarence Park to practice, and then try cycling half-marathon and then marathon distances.
Eventually, he wants to try cycling from London to Brighton.
The trike is costing them £4,100 and a JustGiving page has been set up at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/harvey-astell
They are also running an event on September 1 at London Road Social Club, where half the money will go towards the trike, and half will go to the stroke unit at Watford General Hospital.
Harvey has also been working with the Stroke Association during his recovery.
Support Coordinator at the Stroke Association Laura McGregor said: “In the UK stroke is the leading cause of disability and there are 1.2m people living with the physical and emotional after effects.
“The Stroke Association helps to support stroke survivors like Harvey, regain their independence in life after stroke.
“Harvey has shown tremendous courage and determination to get better after his stroke, and is proof that there is life after stroke.
“Harvey’s dream is to get back on a bike again, and we’re going to be with him every step of the way to help him get to this goal.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Harvey, and we’re thrilled he’s decided to volunteer for the charity to help others.”