St Helens nurse, John McElroy, has become an international inspiration after his story captured the hearts of American news outlet CNN.
John, a former brick factory worker, now works at St Helens Hospital’s rehabilitation unit treating patients with brain and spinal injuries. He was inspired to become a nurse after his own life-changing illness.
After suffering a severe stroke at the age of 42, John endured over a year of rehabilitation and then lost his job. Instead of wallowing accepting the hand he’d been dealt, father-of-three John decided he had no choice but to fight back and start over again.
Today, not only is he on top of his health, but he has a whole new career as a staff nurse caring for stroke survivors and people with brain and spinal injuries.
“My confidence was shattered after my stroke; I was angry and didn’t understand why it had happened to me.
“It was then a complete shock to lose my job at the factory. But being a stroke survivor myself enables me to empathise with the patients I now work with. I love my job and love the fact that I can give hope to people for their future.”
It was this story that inspired CNN to feature John in their inspirational series ‘Turning Point’. The series, shown worldwide, features stories of people who have experienced life-changing illness but used this experience to better their lives, rather than becoming a victim.
John had worked in a local brick factory for more than 25 years up until the day he started to feel unwell. He went home from work angry and agitated and by the time he woke up the next day he was unable to stand and the world was spinning around him.
His speech and sight in one eye went temporarily but it was his short term memory, balance and concentration that left him off work for a year.
John says: “I was riddled with fear and was exhausted all the time but I just refused to accept I was finished.”
A chat with a mental health nurse planted the seed for John’s new career. She gave him details about the qualifications he would need to achieve his career dream.
Supported by his family and the Stroke Association, John enrolled at university and although a struggle in terms of his continued recovery from illness and financially, John graduated with his nursing degree.
John now has his dream role helping others who have been through similar experiences to recover, and often uses his story to encourage patients.
"He's a good listener” said one patient, “He told me what happened to him and it inspires me to work harder."