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    FAREWELL TO THE FATHER OF STROKE

    FAREWELL TO THE FATHER OF STROKE

    It was with great sadness that Stroke Central Region said there farewells to President Steve Davies. After a long period of failing health and a particularly bad year, Steve finally succumbed to Intestinal Cancer and passed away on 29th July 2014.

    Throughout his bouts of Cancer and two serious strokes, Steve’s tenacity had seen him attend most meetings. He had not missed a Regional AGM/Fun Day since 2003 and he had attended all but a very minor few National meetings despite being in great discomfort.

    Steve was loved and greatly respected by all who knew him. He was renowned for being a good listener and stroke survivors saw him as “The Father of Stroke Central Region”

    Steve came to his first Regional Council meeting in 2003 as President of the Wairarapa Stroke Club. Almost the first statement he made was that the drivers of the Stroke Foundation should be people who have survived stroke because; they have walked the walk and are the experts in how stroke affects people and their lives. His philosophy then as now was that if stroke survivors work so hard to survive they required the quality of life to go with any quantity.

    “Stroke survivors have to give up so much of the decision making in their lives because of the effects of stroke that even the smallest of decisions becomes a modicum of independence that affords them control and therefore quality of life”.

    In 2004 Steve was voted President of the Stroke Foundation Central Region and set about building an organisation that would serve stroke survivors and promote research that would advance recovery from stroke. He did this by involving representation from the whole region around the Governance table. Representatives were people who had firsthand knowledge of stroke and recovery, they were stroke survivors and Carer’s and family, all of whom had direct hands- on experience of stroke, all working together. Most of those representative’s also had business backgrounds and could advise the Council on a wide variety of subjects. In all of the ensuing Years Steve worked at a full time role for no pay at all. Nothing deterred him from the task in hand and only severe illness prevented him from attending any meeting he had agreed to attend.

    Under pressure from the National organisation for each region to become separately incorporated, Steve worked tirelessly with the Council to attain that goal and went out with Joan to personally meet with members in the whole region to gain their approval for separate incorporation. This was achieved in 2005. “We all need to be singing from the same Hymn sheet” was Steve’s favourite by-line

    After incorporation, Steve worked to make Stroke Central Region the strong independent organisation it is today. Using his Military training and knowledge acquired when he attained his Business degree, he introduced policy and order into what previously had been a chaotic structure. One of his outstanding achievements was in communication in getting factions within and outside of the Region to communicate better with each other hence improving communication to individual members. The newsletters became more informative and transparency about the business at the Council table became evident with the “Magna Charta” which is sent to each stroke club and direct members after each meeting. All new policy was about the inclusiveness of stroke survivors.

    The AGM poorly attended in the past became an event to look forward to annually at the introduction of the “Fun Day” in 2006 which Steve saw as the biggest opportunity to liaise with the members about their recovery after stroke whilst enjoying a game of bowls with them. Steve was present for every Fun Day since its inception and loved speaking with the members. Overhearing conversations at these events, those who attended had nothing but excellent comments to make about Steve and his organisational skills. People found his manner and open approach very good and it was fact that he was easy to talk to, more importantly he listened and was open to suggestion.

    The last three and a half years as President of Stroke Central Region were the toughest for Steve and the toughest on his health. After several failed attempts to bring the whole National organisation to a unified structure, the decision was made to form a working group to that end. Steve as the President sat on the National Council and found the process grueling both physically and mentally. Steve was not against unification and found that there were a number of advantages in the document. However, Steve’s philosophies on supporting stroke survivors and the organisation were continually challenged.

    It would have been easy for Steve to bow to the majority and go along with ideology that did not fit with his philosophy that the organisation should be driven by stroke survivors and the members. Despite the continual barraging at the meetings he refused to take the Central Region to a place the members did not want to go. He was resolute that if the structure could not involve input from members, stroke clubs and survivors then he would not vote for the unification. He had a very difficult time getting the National body to understand that he represented the “members” of the Central Region who subsequently at a Special General Meeting turned out in their hundreds and voted against unification.

    With the national organisation now under change, Stroke Central Region were all but shut out and left to work alone. Steve found himself and the Central Region Council with the considerable challenges of steering the region without national support. Steve, dug deep and drew on his strengths, his experiences and his knowledge. He was happy to be working for stroke survivors and their recovery and he got on with the job and was making headway when this last bout of serious illness overtook him.

    In June 2010 Steve received a New Zealander of the Year award under the title “Local Hero” Steve was more than a local hero, he was a hero to all stroke survivors.

    When we meet a new stroke survivor we try and demonstrate that ‘Life after Stroke’ with its challenges can have great quality. Steve embodied that philosophy and he and everyone associated with him is extremely proud of his achievements for the organisation. We will be proud to carry all that he has attained forward and build on his philosophies. Steve said that we should be proud to tell people about stroke and to that end he designed a jerkin which carried the Stroke Central Region name which he wore and encouraged all members to wear so that people could see we were proud of who we are– this was yet another opportunity he identified to heighten the profile of stroke and tell other people about it.

    Stroke steals so much from survivors by compromising faculties such as mobility and speech – all visual to the onlooker. However, we are still the same person within with the same aspirations as we have always had. We still love and want to be loved. We may not be able to do the things we used to but that does not prevent us enjoying the spectator role nor does stroke take away our life’s achievements - we are still to be valued. Rest in Peace Steve, we will never forget you!!

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    Thursday 14th August, 2014