Elderly stroke survivor crosses finishing line of St Albans half-marathon


Care home staff at Bupa helped Elizabeth Barber cross the finishing line of a half-marathon two years after the runner was told she would never walk again.

Elizabeth, 72, suffered a life-changing stroke at her home in August 2016 and was found slumped at the bottom of her stairs by a friend hours later.

Left paralysed and unable to speak, medics feared she would not recover.

But after extensive treatment at a Bupa care home in St. Albans, Elizabeth began to slowly regain her strength, co-ordination and mental aptitude.

Super-fit before the stroke, Elizabeth had completed four marathons – taking part in her first at 58 years old.

While helping Elizabeth through her recovery, nurses from Bupa Tenterden House realised her love of running.

On learning this, the team of nurses agreed to walk the St Albans Half Marathon on Elizabeth’s behalf – and plucked her from the crowd to cross the finish line with them.

Delia Abaza, deputy manager for Bupa Tenterden House, arranged the tribute and was among those taking part in the race.

She said: “We have known Elizabeth for a long time, as she used to come and visit a friend in the home.

‘’After her stroke, she was in a very bad way and the doctors had said she might not be able to walk or talk again, but we knew Elizabeth was a fighter.

“She has come such a long way in the last couple of years, and – while the route is a challenge for us – we are all so happy to be taking part and help Elizabeth cross that line.

Abaza added: ‘’Knowing we’re doing it for Elizabeth has given us the motivation to complete it.

‘’To see her face at the end as she crossed the line made the hard work worthwhile.

‘’She is a very special lady, she is incredibly wise and an inspiration to us all.

’’After all she has been through it is fantastic to see her looking so well, and able to come to the race and walk the last couple of hundred yards with us.’’

After collecting her medal, Elizabeth, who used to run a music shop in St Albans, said: ‘’It was an incredible feeling

‘’I honestly could not imagine crossing a finish line again, and it is only thanks to Delia and the girls that I did it.

‘’After my stroke I was just lucky to be alive. When it began to dawn on me that I would not complete another race, I was devastated.

“The support of the nurses here has always been fantastic, but now they are quite literally going the extra mile.

‘’Running was such a big part of my life, and so to have the thrill of crossing a finish line once again is really special.”

Inspired by Elizabeth, fellow care home resident Josephine Arnott, 76, also joined the nurses in walking the race.

Timea Fordos, 33, who works at the care home, also took part in the race which residents and families attended to show their support.

Elizabeth’s stroke occurred in August 2016 just a few months after she completed the Wokingham Half Marathon at the age of 70.

She also ran the London Marathon in 2006 and 2007, as well the Loch Ness Marathon in 2004 and the Lake Windermere version in 2012.

Earlier this year, Bupa Tenterden House was rated as “Outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission, putting it within the top 2 per cent of care homes in England.

In particular, the report praised colleagues for making sure residents were “central to everything that happened”, encouraging them to pursue their personal hobbies and interests.

South West News Service

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