Gunnedah’s Bob Groth suffered a severe stroke just over a year ago and with the prospects looking grim, doctors did not hold out much hope for his survival much less recovery. Twelve months down the track, Bob is very close to being his old self, although he still has a way to go. In Stroke Awareness Week (September 9-16), this is an inspiring story of friendship, loyalty, the love and devotion of family – and of hope for people who have suffered a stroke.
BOB and Robin Groth have been married for 48 years – they raised a brood of six children and have been happily retired for a number of years, enjoying life on their little farm, Skipton, along the Quia Road.
On August 18, 2012, they were in Gosford at their son’s place getting ready to head overseas for a holiday in Bali when their life was turned upside down.
Bob suffered a severe stroke, known in medical terms as an intracranial haemorrhage, and was rushed by ambulance to Gosford Hospital, where doctors ran a series of tests and prepared his family for the worst.
A symbol of hope, however, was that he had not lost consciousness, even though his brain had suffered a bleed “as big as a fist”.
Later that night, Bob was transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital by helicopter and for 10 days his life hung in the balance, with his family gathered at his bedside.
Robin Groth has high praise for the professionalism, kindness and compassion shown by staff in the stroke ward.
“They were absolutely amazing, even though they were not prepared to do much at first – they wanted to see if Bob would survive,” Robin said.
Bob defied all odds, however, and started to show signs of recovery.
On Monday, August 27, nine days after his stroke, he was flown to Tamworth and admitted to the stroke ward.
“Bob could not pass the rehab standard to begin treatment – he couldn’t feed or wash himself and his speech was limited, so he was sent by ambulance to Gunnedah Hospital, on September 4,” Robin said.
“Although we knew he still had along way to go, it was wonderful to be home at last.”
Within days Bob’s ward was full of visitors, cards and well wishers, which barely left time for his rehabilitation.
Enter his old mate, Des (Wimpy) Dries, whose friendship went way back to primary school days at St Xavier’s School.
Wimpy and his wife Rita, Robin and Grothy, as he was affectionately known in his meat inspection days, had formed a close bond over many years and it was at one of their regular card games that they realised Bob had shown the early signs of a stroke.
“We were playing cards at our place and Bob couldn’t put them together,” Wimpy said.
“We didn’t really take much notice at the time but looking back it was the first sign that something was about to go wrong.”
Being home again made a huge difference to Bob’s recovery as staff at Gunnedah Hospital set a program in place to get him back into the rehab unit at Tamworth.
Wimpy Dries was a regular visitor to the ward, along with other mates and Bob’s family, pushing, cajoling, encouraging and praising him through every effort.
“They were absolutely wonderful – Dr Parsons and Therese Mills, the nursing staff and domestic staff were so supportive,” Robin said.
“We had to get Bob back to rehab quickly and concentrate on speech therapy and exercises.
“Gunnedah does not have the set up for rehabilitation but the staff were wonderful.
“I will never forget the morning Therese Mills rang and said Dr Parsons and staff had him walking – it was God’s miracle.”
On October 16, 2012, Bob was ready for rehab and he arrived back in Tamworth in time for his 70th birthday celebration seven days later.
If Robin could not make it to Tamworth, Wimpy Dries was there, helping his mate to regain the skills most people take for granted.
Bob was also about helping himself, he worked hard and went from a wheelchair to a walking frame
and learned to shave and shower himself.
Bob’s family and other mates were also on hand constantly to help with his rehabilitation and although he had suffered a severe stroke, Bob never lost his sense of humour, which endeared him to hospital staff everywhere.
His doctors in Sydney never believed he would come home, and if he did survive he would live in a vegetable-like state because of the massive bleed.
Bob’s mate Wimpy said their friendship had been forged in primary school and strengthened at St Mary’s College when the enrolment included around 20 boys.
“We were a close unit and we still keep in touch,” Wimpy said.
“After working for so many years in the hospital, I know the value of having a friend in recovery and ‘having no time’ is not an excuse for people not to visit.
“It all comes back to you eventually and it doesn’t cost you anything.”
On December 7, 2012, Bob Groth returned home to Skipton using only a cane.
He continues to work every day on his speech and eye co-ordination, with the strong support of his family and friends.
Every weekend, Bob attends Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic Church with his mate Wimpy, who like Robin Groth believes in miracles.
“Bob got his miracle,” Robin said.
Bob and Robin have also been blessed with a growing family with 14 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
According to the Stroke Foundation, stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer – one in six Australians will suffer a stroke in their lifetime and of those who do survive stroke, 65 per cent are left with a disability that impedes their ability to carry out daily living activities.
National Stroke Week runs from September 9 to 15. Stroke Week is an annual event that aims to
raise the awareness of stroke within the community and encourage all Australians to take action to prevent stroke.
• For more information visit http://strokefoundation.com.au/national-stroke-week/