Surrey grandfather has won a Stroke Association Life After Stroke Award for his remarkable bravery following a life-changing stroke. James Cho, 65, was presented with his Adult Courage Award (over 65s) at a star-studded ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel (12 June 2014). The MasterChef 2014 champion, Ping Coombes, presented James with his award.
In 2010, aged 62, James had a major stroke while he was visiting his daughter, Fiona. He was immediately rushed to Epsom Hospital, where he had a further three strokes. He developed aphasia: a language disorder which affects a person’s ability to communicate, but not their intelligence. He was also completely paralysed down the right-hand side of his body.
James’ stroke affected his mobility and he was unable to follow his twin passions – motorbike riding and cycling. James had previously represented his native Malaysia at water polo in the South East Asian Peninsular Games and was a Kung-Fu instructor, before moving to the UK in 1974.
James says: “The stroke had a devastating impact on my life. Thankfully, I was with my daughter Fiona when it happened. She recognised the FAST symptoms of stroke and dialled 999. Because of her, I’m alive today. Not being able to walk or talk was terrifying. At the time, I thought my life was as good as over.”
James underwent five weeks of intensive physiotherapy and speech therapy in the hospital’s stroke unit and slowly regained enough mobility to return home. Shortly after being discharged from hospital, James became a grandfather for the first time. He could only walk with the aid of a walking stick and dreamt of one day becoming strong enough to play football with his grandson Noah. He promised his daughter Fiona that he would do everything physically possible to make this a reality.
Four-and-half years on, and a combination of determination, a demanding training regime and on-going support from his family, has helped James realise his dream of being able to play with three-and-a-half year old Noah. He has regained almost all of his mobility and is now able to ride his motor bike and bicycle.
A keen musician, James is learning to play his guitar again and is an active member of his local speech and language group’s singing club. He is studying to become a personal fitness trainer and wants to specialise in sports therapy, so he can help others who have lost their mobility through injury or illness.
The Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards, sponsored by TONI&GUY Charitable Foundation, recognise the courage shown by stroke survivors and carers as well as the great work and commitment shown by health professionals, groups and supporter organisations.
Jon Barrick, Chief Executive at the Stroke Association, said: “James’ attitude to life is nothing short of remarkable. The road to his recovery has been long, but his guts, determination, and refusal to give up have helped him regain much of the independence he enjoyed before his stroke.
“James’ personal story of recovery is inspirational to many stroke survivors. At the Stroke Association, we support stroke survivors to make their best possible recovery and we’re working to change the world for people affected by this devastating condition. James is a worthy winner of this award.”
James, who was joined by his wife June, 61, daughter Fiona, 34, and son Jamie, 33, at the awards ceremony, said: “It was an honour to receive the Stroke Association’s award. If I had one message to other stroke survivors, it would be ‘never give up, and make life after stroke a reality’.”
For more information on the Life After Stroke Awards and to view short films about the winners, including James, visit www.stroke.org.uk/lasa.