Barry: “I’ve had physical, mental and nursing support – it’s absolutely phenomenal”

Retired Lancashire firefighter Barry Hornsby saw his life turned upside down when he suffered a stroke while playing golf. However, with our teams’ help, he’s now able to walk again and is focusing on the future.

On 30 September, 2022, Barry Hornsby was playing his usual game of golf with some friends and he recalls it being some of his best golf yet.

However, despite almost no warning signs, the retired Lancashire firefighter went on to suffer a stroke mid-way round the course which led to some of the toughest months of his life.

Now, he’s sharing how we supported him in his recovery – all thanks to your donations – and how he’s slowly regaining some of his mobility again.

“I remember I was actually playing some of the best golf of my life at the time,” says Barry, 55.

“I don’t smoke, I eat well, I go to the gym, I had a very active lifestyle… so you’d never have thought something like this could happen.

“It’s hard to describe but it felt like a sort of air bubble formed between my shoulder and neck and then burst. There was no pain but I instantly felt my eyes go and I felt really sick. I went down to my knees and assumed it would pass, but it didn’t. I had really bad double vision and when I stood up I couldn’t walk at all.

“I was helped off the course and into an ambulance before being taken to hospital.”

Barry says he didn’t show any obvious symptoms at first. While his speech was a little slower, he was still able to talk to his friends, and he could move both sides of his body. However, he later lost strength in his right side and his eyesight suffered too.

“Then, when I got to hospital and the adrenaline started to wear off, I couldn’t walk at all,” he adds. “I stayed there for 12 nights from then.

“I kept the curtain drawn almost the whole time I was there, I didn’t want to see anyone – I felt really embarrassed, and I felt really guilty, like I’d done something wrong. I don’t know why.

“The first time I tried to walk, with the physio’s help, was the first time I’d really looked around the ward. There were people there a lot older than me, and who were in a much worse state, and I think that almost spurred me on – seeing that I was miles younger and had a good chance at recovery.”

Barry was later diagnosed with Wallenberg syndrome, which means he can’t feel on one side, but keen to regain as much mobility as he could, he called us to see how we may be able to support him.

“The first time I was invited to Jubilee House was in January 2023 and it was amazing,” says Barry.

“I was in the nursing group on that first visit and I had some time with one of the physiotherapists. I couldn’t walk at all at that point, certainly not unaided, so we went through some basic exercises I could do to regain some small movements.

“I’d been given six weeks of physio through the NHS but then after that, you’re put on a long waiting list. I was fortunate that I could pay for some privately, but having the intense weeks at Jubilee House was invaluable.”

Barry says one of the things he didn’t anticipate was the impact his stroke would have on his social life, as well as his mental wellbeing, as he adjusted to a new normal.

“A major impact on me has been social isolation,” adds Barry. “The first few months I couldn’t even see my mates, they’d come over and I just couldn’t see them.

“I had obviously struggled to come to terms with what had happened, and had moments of feeling really sorry for myself, so I actually got in touch with the Charity again to see if there was any help I could have mentally too, and I was invited to Harcombe House.

“It was so helpful. I did small parts of the walks, just what I could, and all the group sessions.

“I do the programme at home now every single day.”

Barry Hornsby

“The mindfulness stuff was great. I was always that person that thought mental health support wasn’t for me. I would often hear talks on it and switch off, I have to admit, but I can’t stress how much I took out of my week there. It was brilliant.”

More recently, and as he’s slowly regained the ability to walk short distances, Barry has returned to Jubilee House to build on his physical strength.

“The last time I went, it was absolutely phenomenal, I could do more so they could give me a better programme of exercises,” he says.

“I do the programme at home now every single day, and see progress every single day. Sometimes I’m only 40% good but other days I’m 60% – some days are better than others.

“My mobility is better, it isn’t great, but I’m constantly working on it. I’m going back to the golf course and riding the buggy with my mates which has been really good for me.”

Barry now says he’s set himself a goal of playing 18 holes again with his friends – and hopes, by sharing his story, he’ll encourage others who may require support with either their physical or mental health to get in touch with us.

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, you can call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or visit the ‘Access Support’ tab in My Fire Fighters Charity.

And remember – if you’re feeling suicidal, you can call our Crisis Line 24 hours a day on 0300 373 0896.