Following on from last month’s article in Retford Life, John and Jo Pritchard talk about music, its influence on Jo’s stroke recovery, and on their training for the London marathon.
Speech problems following stroke usually results from damage to the left side of the brain, in the area responsible for language. Music and the melody of speech, however, originate in the right side. Although Jo couldn’t string a sentence together and struggled with communication in the early days post-stroke, she never lost the ability to sing and remembers singing along to every song sung in the Stars in their Eyes final on the hospital TV!
Through ‘neuroplasticity’, intact areas of the brain have the potential to learn new roles and take over the function of damaged areas. The more we sing familiar rhymes or songs, the more we are stimulating the right-hand side of the brain, training it to take over roles from the previously dominant left side. Perhaps even more important is the rehabilitation received.
Therapy is essential to ensure the brain is learning how to do any ‘new’ task correctly, rather than learning bad habits and compensatory techniques. Jo received 12 months of speech therapy, and although this was vital, it was the other six days and 22 to 23 hours each week that really mattered.
“John was my main carer, and he gave me so much support throughout, always making sure I did my ‘homework’,” Jo said. “He’d encourage me to keep going, even on the days I didn’t want to. It was the dedication, determination and drive, from me and my family, that resulted in my full recovery.
“On returning to work in Aberdeen in 2000, I was known as “the one who had the stroke”, how rewarding it is to know that until now nobody in Retford suspected I had ever even had one, even if I do still get words mixed up at times!”
Music plays a huge part in the couple’s marathon training too. John couldn’t think of doing a long run without his Ipod and earphones!
“Over the past month, ‘training’ has meant early starts, getting up at 6.00am to run what I now consider a ‘short’ run of six miles. At weekends you will find us both doing a ‘longer’ run. That’s around 14 miles at the moment, but every week this ratchets up and will soon be over 20 miles! Not bad for someone who used to come last in cross country races at school!” added Jo.
If you are able to support John and Jo in their London Marathon challenge for the Brain Research Trust, donations can be made online at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/team_pritchard.
If you’d like a little music therapy yourself, John and Jo are hosting a ‘Mamma Mia’ sing-a-long at Retford Little Theatre on Friday 23rd February at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10.00 each. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book. All profits will be donated to charity.