'I'm sure the doctors thought I wouldn't get better, let alone run a marathon' 

David Diston had a major stroke that left him paralysed down his right side and unable to speak. Now he has made a near total recovery, and has even run a marathon

When David crossed the finishing line of the London Marathon, after a gruelling eight hours, 23 minutes and 15 seconds, he was entitled to feel proud. It was just two-and-a-half years since he had suffered a major stroke.

“I’m sure the doctors thought I wouldn’t get better, let alone run a marathon,” says David.

David was overweight, had high blood pressure and had begun to have symptoms of stroke, such as episodes of blurred vision, as long as 10 years earlier. His daughter, cousin, father and aunt have all had strokes, yet he was never diagnosed as being at high risk. Indeed, he was feeling well when he suddenly dropped to the floor in what must have looked like a dead faint.

He woke up in an assessment ward at Swindon’s Princess Margaret Hospital. He had no feeling or movement down his right side, and he couldn’t speak.

“I wanted to ask for a coffee and I could read the word on the hospital menu, but I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t go to the loo on my own, or even do up my trousers. Worst of all, I couldn’t tell anyone how embarrassed I felt.

“After a few days, I was moved to a specialist stroke unit where the doctors explained that I would have to learn to speak, write and walk again from scratch. The lessons began quickly, and I was soon having daily physiotherapy to strengthen my right arm and leg. I also had speech therapy a few times a week.”

After four weeks, David was allowed home. “I had to make a cup of tea, walk up four stairs and do some clearing up, otherwise they wouldn’t have let me leave.

"Although I still couldn’t write more than two or three letters of the alphabet, I could read, and this helped me re-learn how to write letters and numbers. A speech therapist and physiotherapist came to the house two or three times a week for three months. After that, I continued to go to the hospital for physio and speech therapy.

“The doctors explained that my family history of strokes and being so overweight meant I had to change my diet and start exercising. I was 127kg (20st) and only 1.73m (5ft 8in). I follow a low-fat diet and eat far more fruit and veg and have lost five stone. I run up to 10 miles several times a week. I also go to the gym and use weight machines to carry on strengthening my right arm and leg.

“Now, no one knows I’ve had a stroke, unless I choose to tell them."

Page last reviewed: 08/09/2014

Next review due: 08/09/2016