St Albans stroke survivor triumphs in half marathon finish
PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 14 June 2018
A pensioner who was told she would never walk again after a stroke overcame the odds by completing the St Albans Half Marathon.
Elizabeth Barber, 72, was found slumped by a friend hours after suffering a stroke in her home in August 2016. She was left paralysed and unable to speak, and doctors feared she would never recover.
Formerly a keen runner, her stroke came just a few months after she completed the Wokingham Half Marathon at the age of 70. After being rushed to hospital, Elizabeth spent two weeks being assessed before being referred to rehab, where she showed little signs of recovery.
She was moved to Tenterden House Care Home in Bricket Wood, which is run by Bupa, after doctors concluded there was nothing more they could do for her.
Against all odds, Elizabeth regained the ability to walk and talk, and two years later crossed the finishing line of the St Albans Half Marathon on Sunday, June 10 with the help of nursing staff.
While helping her regain her strength and mental aptitude, the nurses at the care home discovered her love for running. Led by care home deputy manager Delia Abaza, 50, they decided to complete the marathon on her behalf, and plucked her from the crowd to cross the finishing line with them.
Elizabeth said: “It was an incredible feeling. I honestly could not imagine crossing a finish line again, and it is only thanks to Delia and the girls that I did it.
“After my stroke I was just lucky to be alive. When it began to dawn on me I wouldn’t complete another race, I was devastated.
“The support of the nurses here has always been fantastic, but now they are quite literally going the extra mile. Running was such a big part of my life, and so to have the thrill of crossing a finish line once again is really special.”
Prior to her stroke, Elizabeth, who used to run St Albans Music Centre in Holywell Hill, had taken part in four marathons - completing her first at the age of 58. Describing herself as “fit as a fiddle”, she ran the London Marathon twice in 2006 and 2007, the Loch Ness Marathon in 2004 and the Lake Windermere Marathon in 2012.
Inspired by Elizabeth, fellow care home resident Josephine Arnott, 76, also walked the race. Staff member Timea Fordos, 33, also took part alongside Elizabeth and Delia. Other residents and their families attended to show their support,
Delia said: “We’ve known Elizabeth for a long time, as she used to come and visit a friend in the home.
“After her stroke, she was in a very bad way and the doctors had said she might not be able to walk or talk again, but we knew Elizabeth was a fighter.
“She’s come such a long way in the last couple of years, and – while the route is a challenge for us – we’re all so happy to be taking part and help Elizabeth cross that line.
“Knowing we’re doing it for Elizabeth has given us the motivation to complete it. To see her face at the end as she crossed the line made the hard work worthwhile.
“She is a very special lady, she is incredibly wise and an inspiration to us all.
“After all she has been through it is fantastic to see her looking so well, and able to come to the race and walk the last couple of hundred yards with us.”