In July 2018, Paul had just started a new business venture, but when he woke one night paralysed on his left side, he knew it wasn’t good.

Once I realised I wasn’t regaining any feeling, I called out to my son, and was taken by ambulance to Auckland City Hospital.  I knew I’d had a stroke.

Financial planner Paul spent the next four weeks at Auckland City Hospital, starting in the Stroke Intensive Care Unit (ICU), then moving to Rangitoto Ward under the care of nurses and occupational therapists.

“On my first day in hospital, I was so sick with a physical reaction to the stroke.”  A CAT scan revealed a small blood clot in the right-hand side of Paul’s brain, which meant his mobility was affected, but not his cognitive ability.  The clot’s position also meant it couldn’t be surgically removed, but Paul underwent a series of tests and started medication to prevent another stroke.

Life on the Ward

After a week in the ICU, Paul felt relieved to move up to Rangitoto Ward: “It was a big step on my road to recovery, the views were amazing, and I bonded with my three roommates.  We were all so different and were there for different reasons, but there was a lot of camaraderie in the room.”

Paul was assigned to Auckland DHB Occupational Therapist Helen Nicholson (below), who managed his rehabilitation programme.  From getting Paul out of his wheelchair to ensuring he could make his own breakfast before he went home, Helen was there every step of the way.

“Days on the ward were full-on.  Helen would pin up my timetable for the week, and it was go-go-go.  They definitely don’t leave you in your hospital bed; they’re by your side in the gym each day and always encouraging you to use your left side practically.  Every day, I was getting a bit stronger.”

During his time on Rangitoto Ward, Paul discovered the weekly baking therapy group, run by passionate therapy assistants Patricia Colle Dos Santos (below) and Bianca Machado.

“I’d baked all my life.  I’ve always seen baking as a great therapy, but in my first week on Rangitoto Ward, I didn’t bother going to the baking group.  I thought, ‘I’m already a baker, I don’t need to go,’ but when I saw what they baked, I said, ‘we can do better than this,’ and started bringing my own recipes along.”

The group is interactive, engaging, and fun, and it is hugely beneficial to patients’ recovery. “Not only did Bianca and Patricia teach me skills to compensate for my arm weakness, but I also got to know other patients on the ward, and we’d always have a much-needed laugh.  My relationships with staff and other patients were so important in helping me stay positive and upbeat during some tough times, and I’m so grateful to them all.”

Paul soon realised the ward staff donated the baking ingredients themselves.  “On top of everything else these amazing people do, dedicating their lives to their patients, it didn’t seem right they paid for the baking group.

“This place is their life.  They are all so hard working, which was my motivation to find a way to help.”

Paul finds a new calling

When Paul was strong enough to go home, he was already thinking about how he could help, and it was an easy decision to focus on the baking group.

With the Auckland Health Foundation’s support, Paul got started organising his first fundraiser, a ‘Long Lunch at Chapel Bar & Bistro’.  He brought sponsors on board to provide raffle and silent auction prizes, raising over $2,500..  Paul then worked his magic with a generous Kiwi baking company, which now makes regular donations of baking goods, ensuring staff no longer have to supply the basic ingredients to keep the group going.

Following the success of the event, Paul again rallied his sponsors and networks and organised a Sunday Roast and Movie Night’ fundraiser – raising more than $1,200 towards refurbishing the whānau room on Rangitoto Ward.

Three months later, Paul gave the whānau room fund another boost, by hosting a Long Lunch.  Thanks to Paul’s dedication, the support of his event sponsors and the generosity of everyone who came along for the fun afternoon, a further $2,580 was raised – all going directly towards refurbishing the room.

And before too long, Paul was at it again, hosting his second long lunch. Paul raised nearly $3,000 for the Rangitoto Ward whānau room with the help of his sponsors and generous lunch guests, taking his total contribution to the room refurbishment to nearly $10,000.

Helen says everyone on Rangitoto Ward is grateful for the positive difference Paul is making.  “It’s incredible for a patient to make such an effort to help.  Paul’s ongoing support to improve the rehab experience for others is hugely appreciated by both staff and patients; he has transformed our baking group, which helps our patients – both physically and mentally – on their rehab journeys.”

What’s next?

Paul has always been optimistic.  He was determined to turn his stroke into something positive, and by fundraising, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“I’ve got a long way to go with physio, but I’m a lot luckier than some,” says Paul.  “I’ve never stopped working and mentally I’m fine.  Giving up has never been an option. You’ve got to stay active and positive, and find a reason to keep going.

“As a financial planner, I help people make the most of what they’ve got, and that same attitude applies to helping the hospital.  Giving back is a big part of my therapy, and it’s good to have a positive thing to do.”

“The hospital teams works so hard, but one thing I can do to relieve their stress is utilise my networks.  I believe people have a natural instinct to help, and if your cause resonates, they will help you if they can.

“I’ve found my cause, and I intend to keep working with the Auckland Health Foundation to help those who were vital in my recovery.  The Foundation has been so supportive, and it’s great to work with a team I can trust.”