In 2001, just 19 days after celebrating the new Millennium, Susara Street (Sue) took a strange turn on her lunchbreak. Working as a PA to an importer/exporter at the time, Sue was lucky to be discovered quickly – her boss often worked abroad but happened to be in the office that day.
Sue’s husband, Charles, recalls receiving a slurred phone call from Sue, telling him she was going to Murdoch Hospital. There, the medical team discovered a bleed on Sue’s brain, which had led to a blood clot and, ultimately, a stroke.
A year or so prior to this, Sue had been experiencing frequent migraines. One Sunday, she had a particularly bad migraine and felt tingles in her left arm and hand. However, due to a work commitment, she put off going to see her GP.
“That was a big mistake,” recalls Sue. “That Friday I had the stroke. One should listen to one’s body!”
Sue spent six months rehabilitating in Shenton Park before moving back home with Charles and their two teenage children, Maleny and Charles.
“It affected us more than her at that point,” recalls Charles Snr. “It was so immediate. We realised how much she had been doing for us. Luckily, family and friends pitched in and the children stepped up to help with cleaning, ironing and cooking.”
The stroke significantly affected Sue’s mobility – she can walk short distances with a stick, but mostly uses a wheelchair. Her left hand is paralysed.
Cognitively, she has trouble with orientation and short-term memory. Her specialist calls it a ‘time and space problem’. “I don’t know what day of the week it is but I remember the dates of everyone’s birthdays,” explains Sue.
Sue has been a Customer of MSWA since 2017, under an NDIS plan. She was with a different provider until she and Charles realised MSWA could provide them with specialist neurological services, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
“MSWA seemed to be the best solution,” says Charles. “We got accepted straight away and we’ve always had very good service.”
Sue attends the MSWA Kelmscott Services Centre for regular sessions with physiotherapist, Randall. The couple also speak highly of their MSWA occupational therapist, Lina, who arranged Sue’s current wheelchair, as well as railings and ramps for their home.
Originally from South Africa, Sue and Charles moved to Perth when their children were teenagers.
After the stroke happened, Charles continued to work for another 10 years and carers came in to help Sue during the day. Now retired, Charles is Sue’s main carer. Together, they enjoy shopping, going for coffee and going to the beach.
“I love cooking,” says Sue. “I can’t use my left hand, so Charles is my extra hand. He spends a lot of time with me in the kitchen.”
“I get to eat it, so I don’t mind,” laughs Charles. “I used to know nothing in the kitchen. I’ve learnt a lot.”
Sue jokes that she has Charles very well trained. “The next woman who gets him will be very lucky!”
She particularly loves making one-pot dishes, chutneys and soups.
“She’s not a cake person,” laments Charles. “I have to beg for something sweet. Like muffins. She makes great muffins!”
Sue’s condition has been consistent since the stroke occurred, which is something the pair are grateful for. Sue adds, “I do think Charles would prefer me to not talk rather than not walk. I can still tell him what to do!”
Now that Charles has retired, the couple are keen to see more of the world together. “I’d love to go on a cruise ship,” admits Sue. “I want to tour the Pacific Islands.”