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Building strength after a stroke with exercise physiology

in Be Empowered, Latest News, Stories of Independence

John Griffiths, or ‘Griffo’ as he’s known to his friends, has always been a lover of sport, especially soccer. Born in Birmingham in England and moving out to Australia in 1981, he’s still a fervent follower of British soccer teams.

John riding on the exercise bike with Kane in the background watching over
John Griffiths has been coming to the Exercise Clinic under the auspices of Kane for two years

The 65-year-old played with a local team in Rockingham until his mid-fifties, and then when he developed a knee problem he switched to golf. During an operation to remove a brain tumour, John developed a bleed on the brain and suffered a stroke which left him with very limited sight. The stroke damaged his left side of the body and changed the course of his life.

I was devastated, I was still working. Instead of going back to my job, I had a period of nearly a year and a half convalescing. I spent 7 and a half months in hospital. I admit I hit a real low and I am ashamed to say I even felt suicidal.

John Griffiths
VisAbility client

Personalised program of exercise physiology

Four and a half years on, John is a different man and has emerged from his dark days. He’s had a tremendous amount of support and is now a regular at our Exercise Clinic at VisAbility.

“I’ve been coming to the clinic for two years and absolutely love it, I’d say it’s the highlight of my week. It’s amazing how it has improved my strength” he explains.

Kane stands next to John with arm around him in the Exercise Clinic.
Kane puts John through his paces every week

“I had already had some initial physiotherapy, but the exercise physiology has meant I’m improving my muscle mass for better movement function,” explains John.

Kane Perris, VisAbility Therapy Assistant has been overseeing his program and the two of them have struck up a good rapport. John is a highly motivated client and has made excellent progress.

With John the stroke led to some muscular imbalances. Muscles surround every joint in the body. They produce and control movement, so if one side is weak then it causes problems. We’ve developed a personal program targeted to improve his areas of weakness.

Kane Perris
VisAbility Therapy Assistant

“I have an ambition to run again to be able to lift my legs. I like all the pieces of equipment, but the seated row is my favourite because it is making my upper back stronger and improving my biceps. It certainly makes me feel good,” adds John.

“That’s no surprise,” Kane says. “He’s releasing endorphins, ‘feel-good’ chemicals which are happiness boosters”.


Leading an independent life

John has a great support network; he is very close to his two sons who live in the Pilbara. He credits them for his diagnosis.

“On a visit, I was sitting by the pool and one of them said ‘Dad, you’ve got no hair on your legs.’ When I was next at the doctors, I brought it up and before I knew it, I’d been diagnosed with a massive brain tumour and was in the operating theatre within eight days.”

“No words can explain how I felt when the operation didn’t go to plan, but I’m still here and my therapy has been amazing.”

John has very limited sight and can only see a bit of colour, with most objects he can just make out shadows and shapes. Once out of hospital, because of ongoing support, he moved into a retirement village which he says was difficult to adjust to.

Kane holds the top of John's back as he works on weights
John is keen to improve his muscle strength, especially in his upper body

“At the age of 61, that’s hard to take, moving into a retirement village. I’ve always socialised with people younger than me and always felt young at heart. I was into sport and being active, so it was a big adjustment for me. I have settled now and feel far happier, many residents are now friends.”

He has ongoing support from the staff and fellow clients at VisAbility. John’s learnt more about his iPhone and how he can use it to his advantage. He’s also received hydrotherapy and physiotherapy as well as receiving initial orientation and mobility support.

John pulls a weight forward working his shoulder muscles
John says exercise physiology has helped him mentally as well as physically

John’s regular day for exercise physiology is on a Thursday morning. He has lunch and then goes onto a woodworking class in the afternoon. He takes the train from Mandurah with his support worker.

“I enjoy coming here, this is like an extended family and it’s great for me socially.”


Book of life

Spurred on by a friend, John has now written his life story and is in the throes of finding a publisher. He says it’s a book for all those who’ve supported him. The launch will take place at the Meadow Springs Retirement Village in Mandurah.

“When times get tough, you really notice who your friends are. I have a full life now; I play croquet and I play darts. It’s an odd sport to play when you have hardly any sight, but my friends spur me on ‘Come on Griffo!’ they say.

I could never resist a challenge and my vision loss hasn’t stopped me.”
If you’d like more information on this service, details can be found on our Exercise Physiology services page. This therapy is available through the NDIS.