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Published: 18 September 2023

Home for the harvest

After surviving a stroke, Anthony Sinden became one of the first patients at our specialist rehabilitation unit in Margate. We met ‘Tony’ on his farm to find out what it takes to get back home after a stroke.

Farmer Tony with JudyAs the sun shines and the breeze blows across the fields, there is the faint sound of sheep bleating and you can instantly see why Anthony Sinden has worked so hard to come home.

Tony, as he likes to be known, is 92 years-old. Born and bred on the Romney Marsh, he has worked every day for more than 80 years on his family-run farm, which has sustained more than five generations.

Even on the day he had a stroke, back in June, he had been fixing some clutch plates on a lawnmower at the croquet club, when he felt his foot go ‘heavy’.

After a while, it wore off, then his arm went numb and by the evening, his mouth had started to droop.

His son Andrew whisked him to hospital and after a few weeks, he was moved to Heron Ward at Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Herne Bay.

Tony said: “I have always been in good health and up to the day I had the stroke I was very independent.

“I would walk down the road from my house to the farm every day and help out by greasing the combine harvester or cleaning up the yard.

Judy combine harvester“This farm has been in my family since 1897 and I built my house for my wife when we were married in 1955. We raised our two sons here and I was born in the house next door. It is home.

“I have always been active and never really spent much time in hospital, but I knew as it was happening that I was having a stroke.”

By the time Tony arrived on Heron Ward, he had lost all feeling down his left side and could no longer stand or walk unaided. It was then that he met Therapy Assistant Practitioner Judy Underhill and the hard work began.

Judy was working on Heron Ward in training for her role on the new specialist stroke rehabilitation ward which opened at Westbrook House in Margate in July. Tony was one of the first patients to transfer to the specialist unit, which offers round-the-clock care and rehabilitation seven days-a-week.

Judy said: “This unit is really special and the team here is fantastic. We teach patients new ways to cope, but each patient teaches us new things, as no one is affected in the same way by a stroke and they all have different lives to get back to.

“Tony is a shining example of the recovery that can be made when patients are supported to put in the hard work and help themselves back to independence.”

On the unit, therapy and care plans are tailored to what each individual wants to work towards, with exercises and activities that will help them get home, back to doing the things they love. All the patients sit and eat their meals together and there are group therapy sessions, where they encourage and support each other.

“I felt I was receiving so much attention because they used all kinds of therapy to help me recover,” said Tony. “I used elastic bands in the gym to strengthen my legs, electric stimulation, worked on my walking and balance and it was great to have the company of the other patients in the group therapy sessions.”

Andrew said: “I think dad was a bit of a star on the ward at Westbrook House. He has a great sense of humour and positive attitude and you would often hear the staff saying ‘slow down, Tony’! They took such great care of him, we couldn’t recommend the team highly enough.”

Before he was discharged from the unit, Judy visited Tony’s home to check what equipment he needed to support his recovery. He has also been referred to the stroke bridging service and our Community Neuro Rehabilitation Team to follow up his care.

Talking to him now, it is clear Tony is the kind of man who would not let something like a stroke hold him back. He has already modified his walker to hold his grabber tool so he doesn’t have to rely on his son Andrew to pick up things for him.

He said: “It has happened and you have to move on. I need to try and move a bit more now, my left arm is getting stronger, but it’s not there yet.”

Judy agreed: “To see Tony back on his feet, starting to walk with support and regain his independence, is so rewarding. For now, this is his new normal, but if anyone can take on the challenge, it’s Tony.”

And with that, Tony was back to helping on the farm and fixing his combine harvester.