Stroke survivor Damien Greene admits there are bad days. He says he still gets angry. He still thinks of his life prior to his two strokes. It gets him down at times. But Damien wants to live, and not just survive.

He spoke to the Impartial Reporter while attending the weekly meeting of the Fermanagh Stroke Support Group in Enniskillen.

The Department of Health have released a consultation into the future of Stroke Services in Northern Ireland with four of the six options outlined seeing the closure of all stroke services at South West Acute Hospital. And Damian, like other Stroke survivors in the county are huge advocates for the retention of services within the county.

In the space of a week ten years ago Damien took two strokes, one at home and one in Belfast at the Royal Victoria Hospital after he had been transferred from Enniskillen.

He was told he would not make it and he joked with staff in Belfast that he “had not travelled 100 miles to die”.

“I was told that I died twice and I developed lock in syndrome. It was a very difficult time and I still find things very difficult to be honest. I was only 39 when I took the stroke and it was a massive shock. I was away for a full year in Belfast and that was very difficult.”

Damien is candid when he says that he has some “down days” and that he “misses the life” that he had before he had the strokes but he also knows that he is determined to live life to its fullest and he spoke of the support he gets from his partner, Joan Rice.

“She has been a rock for me and without her I don’t know what I would do to be honest,” he said.

Damien is a strong advocate for the retention of the stroke unit at South West Acute Hospital.

“The next stroke, if there is no stroke unit in Enniskillen, will kill me,” he said before going on to talk about the perception of services here in the South West of the province.

“When you talk to people in Belfast about Enniskillen, they think we are living in third world. But we have the best stroke services in the UK so I don’t understand why you would even think of taking it away. It’s crazy. Other units and hospitals should be coming to SWAH to learn about how we do things here.”

Along with partner Joan, and family and friends the Stroke Support Group has been a great help to Damien and he is determined to help others:

“You do feel that you are no good to anyone and you need so much support. There are good days and bad days. But I come to this support group and I really enjoy it and I will do whatever I can to help anyone,” he said before urging people to make sure that they respond to the consultation.

“It is so important to get involved and make sure you fill out the consultation. Even though you may not have had anyone in your family who has been affected by stroke yet, it could come down the line to someone you know and love, or even to you yourself. We need those services near hand, we can’t afford to have to travel two hours up the road before being seen.”