Young stroke survivor walking 16 000 kms to educate, inspire and save lives

An inspirational 33-year-old stroke survivor is attempting to walk around the entire country on a ‘Stroll 4 Stroke’ to raise money for medical research and help teach people about the early stroke warning signs.

Samuel Tee was just 29 when he experienced a stroke. He was fit and otherwise healthy and had just finished a workout at the gym.

Less than four years later he has embarked on the greatest challenge of his life walking around Australia to help others.

“I’m alive and I can walk, so I’m determined to make the most of my life. I don’t want to risk having another stroke and wishing I’d achieved more while I was still able to.”

The mammoth 16 000 kilometre ‘Stroll 4 Stroke’ journey began on November 23rd and will take more than a year. The small team is walking 30 to 40 kilometres a day over 420 days, with the odd rest day in between.

They’ve already covered more than a thousand kilometres, and it hasn’t been easy.

“It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, we've had battle blisters, bone contusions, torn ligaments and gastro. However, we have a clear focus on the task at hand and understand it is a marathon and not a sprint,” Sam says.

Sam has been accompanied by two friends Matt Rothwell and Amy O’Neill travelling in a support vehicle, who have either left their careers or put them on hold to complete the mission. He’s also supported by their trusty sidekick Cash, a black Labrador.

They’ve already traversed Tasmania and Victoria and are currently making their way through South Australia to head over the Nullarbor. Matt has decided to travel ahead to Perth to meet his sister, so Sam’s looking forward to the solo challenge.

The aim of the journey is to raise awareness of stroke recovery treatments, inspire other stroke survivors to never give up, and raise money for stroke research.

When identifying symptoms of a stroke, always remember to think FAST.

F. Face – has their face drooped?

A. Arms – can they lift both their arms?

S. Speech – is their speech slurred and do they understand you?

T. Time – call 000 immediately at the first sign of a stroke, as time is critical.

Slurred speech was one of the first signs for Sam.

He’d been trying to communicate with his housemates, but Matt recognised something was seriously wrong. Sam wanted to go to bed and see if he was feeling better in the morning but his other mate Benny intervened and forced him to go straight to the hospital.

“Sam himself didn’t really know what was going on, he just kept saying, ‘tomorrow’. But he couldn’t even put a t-shirt on by himself, I had to help him put it on,” Benny says.

If it weren’t for Benny’s quick-thinking actions, Sam mightn’t have survived. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke related brain damage.

“I’ve met many stroke survivors throughout my recovery and sadly the people who are worst affected are mostly the people who didn’t receive immediate treatment,” Sam says.

“I didn’t know I was having a stroke and it is hard to understand what’s happening to you at the time. If you’re not feeling too great, talk to family and friends and take their advice on what you should do.”

Sam has had Health Insurance with Bupa since he moved to Australia from the UK 8 years ago, something he thought he’d probably never need.

“I thought I might use my health cover to support sporting injuries but never thought I would be requiring support because I’d had a stroke”, he says.

While he initially felt invincible, he now knows stroke can happen to anyone.

“Stroke does not discriminate against age and everyone can experience its effect with no warning,” he says.

Money raised by the walk will go towards the Stroke Recovery Trial Fund, which is funding a world first clinical trial with Griffiths University for a stroke treatment called Perispinal Etanercept.

The treatment is already available in the USA and has had promising results, but more rigorous clinical trials are needed before it’s readily available in Australia.

To support Sam's cause and make a donation, visit the Stroll 4 Stroke website.

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