'I'm so thankful I can walk again'

When Vivienne Van de Wil suffered a stroke in November 2006, doctors feared she might never walk again.

The 85-year-old, of Fieldgate Lane, Kenilworth was left paralysed down her left side by the blood clot, which struck as she and her husband Peter, 81, were preparing for a holiday in the Bahamas.

Mrs Van de Wil was taken to Warwick Hospital and spent five months in Leamington Rehabilitation Hospital receiving specialist physiotherapy.

Now she is home and can walk short distances using a stick. The couple are grateful for the support the hospital's Feldon ward specialist stroke unit – which celebrated its first anniversary on Friday – has given her.

Mrs Van de Wil said: ""The nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists did a brilliant job.

"Feldon ward was a brilliant unit and I felt very luck that I had the chance to spend time there."

The great-grandmother had gone to visit her son's family in Leicestershire when she fell ill.

Mrs Van de Wil's son drove her Warwick Hospital, where her condition worsened over the following days.

The once active charity worker and school governor was faced with the possibility that she might never be able to walk or use her left arm again.

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She said: "One's life is completely turned upside down.

"Everything you could do when you went into hospital, you couldn't do any of those things or very few when you came out.

"It is very frustrating and distressing to realise what a change you have to make in your life."

Mrs Van de Wil spent months in Feldon Ward, where doctors worked on restoring movement as soon as she arrived.

When her left leg began to show signs of movement towards the end of her stay she was kept in for three more weeks to aid recovery.

It is now seven months since the stroke and the couple travel regularly to the hospital's Stephenson ward outpatient unit where Mrs Van de Wil receives physiotherapy.

The couple were told by friends who had suffered a similar crisis that they would have to mourn what they had lost before rebuilding their lives.

But although Mrs Van de Wil spends a great deal of time in a wheelchair, the couple feel the care she received has reduced the loss considerably.

She is also grateful to her husband, to whom she has been married for 26 years.

Mrs Van de Wil said: "I could not have done this without Peter, who has been the greatest support and encouragement to me from the day it started."

Their only wish is for the hospital to receive more money so it can treat patients more often and at weekends.

Mr Van de Wil said: "We are very happy. The hospital needs more help in certain areas because they are all working so hard.

"It really is a jewel in the crown of the NHS and we are so fortunate she was able to go there."