Imagine you are struck down by an illness; an health problem that incapacitates you.  You are debilitated so much so that you cannot work. You cannot work for some months or even a year or two or longer. What happens when your statutory sick pay runs out. How are you going to pay your bills. How are you going to pay your mortgage or rent, the utility bills, food…..the essentials. If you have a working partner then the burden will fall on them no doubt but what if you don’t, what if you are the only wage earner, what happens?. You may well have a little bit of savings but not much, enough to see you through a few months maybe or even a year or two if your lucky. You may be able to turn to your family for help, that’s if your family are in any kind of position themselves to help you financially.

We would all I should think, turn automatically to the benefit system. To the State, the welfare State to see us through this difficult, stressful time. After all haven’t we been paying our National Insurance to cover us for such eventualities. We would expect the State to help us wouldn’t we, us being genuine cases who need assistance. Well if you can spare 25 minutes or so have a look at this edition of Channel 4’s Despatches from a few weeks ago it may change your mind as to how “ caring ’’ our benefit system really is. It came to my attention when I heard the programme mentioned in a discussion last week on Radio 4.

From my own experience I know how tough and impersonal the new ESA ( Employment Support Allowance )benefit assessments are and in this programme we are shown secretly filmed footage as a doctor goes undercover to train as a medical assessor with the multi national IT French based Atos. This is the private company that now evaluates every claimant for ESA.

Here are some notable quotes from the programme.

From a doctor working for Atos as a trainer “ My speciality is not recognised in this country, so I decided to join Atos”.

Again from the same trainer, “ We should remember that ESA was meant to take people off the benefit”.

And again, “ If someone has no legs but good hands they can propel themselves in a wheelchair, they don‘t get anything”.

And again “ If you lip read or use Braille you are fit for work”. “ As long as you’ve got one finger and can press a button you don’t get anything”.

As a result of pressure from charity groups the Government have launched a review into how people with cancer are being treated. It clearly shows in the programme that certain treatments for cancer, even chemotherapy is no guarantee that you will qualify for benefit under ESA.

So let us hope and pray that you or a member of your family are never struck down with a sickness that stops you from working because the way it looks at the moment the State isn’t going to help you. My ESA benefit stops from 5th October this year. I am deemed fit for work. My appeal is still pending.



I am not a writer. I don’t know how to write. I don’t think I’ve written an essay since I was in the sixth form and that was back in 1976 or a written report since I was slaving  in the Civil Service. I don’t write, I jot, I’m a jotter. I have piled up notebooks full of jottings.

So  this is not an essay or a report , it’s a series of jottings, by me, Lee Carroll, in an attempt at documenting what happened to my Brain back  in July 1996 and my response to a series of photographs taken of me by my Son, Sean Carroll under the heading  ‘Does not suggest death within six months is likely to occur’, taken this year around my home.

I’ll be trying to make some kind of sense on how an exploding blood vessel in my head caused me to be irreversibly changed  in an instance…  forever…. in this life anyway.

I  am one of the lucky ones. I survived. Is there such thing as luck?  I’d like to believe it was by Gods providence that  I survived at all, but this is not going to be a religious debate about faith but faith can come into it if you want because a third of all people who suffer a brain haemorrhage will die pretty quickly and another third will die within a month of having had one. The remaining third will survive. Some will be so severely disabled, requiring constant assistance never leaving the confides of a medical centre. Others will lose the use of a limb or two or the ability to speak or swallow or the means to be able to see properly or some will develop fits or have to endure mind numbing headaches. As your brain is the source of everything you are or do the list could go on and on and on. There’s a lucky 10% who survive pretty much intact. I don’t know where I fit in to all these survivor statistics. I didn’t come out of it unbroken that‘s for sure. But more about that in later posts.

So how is all of this fair, how does that square with any faith you may have and how come I was lucky when so many are not;  there I go again…..luck….or providence.

Of course I wasn’t thinking of any of this at the time it happened…I didn’t even know what a stroke was let alone a brain haemorrhage but more about that in later posts too. Now that I have had years to analyse these events, going over them probably  thousands of times  in my mind, reliving the events over and over, what increased my chances of survival was that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The right place because I was at home, I wasn’t driving or out on my bike or walking in the street or over the field with the dog or even at work. The right time because I wasn’t alone and someone had the sense to stick me in a car and drive me off to the nearest hospital. The right  time because I was probably in the fittest condition of my life. Mid 30’s,  I was a weight trainer, racing cycling fanatic, thirteen an’ half stone full of stamina that fuelled the hours and hours that I invested into my children my life and a demanding job that I liked with a promotion  looming. In other words my body was strong and healthy…so what could go wrong? The right place at the right time?….It’s never the right time is it? How could it ever be the right time. My life was to be changed in a second, it would never be as it was again.

My Brain haemorrhage started about 11am on Saturday the 27th July 1996 and it wasn’t until the late afternoon of that day that the medical teams realised that I was having a Subarachnoid  haemorrhage. I had been ferried during the day to three different hospitals where  doctors tried to figure out what was going wrong with me and why it was that I couldn’t see anything. .. It wasn’t until a young ophthalmologist, shining his small torch into my painful eyes suggested  to his colleague that It would be an idea for me to have a CT scan  with the words, that I can still remember , ’ I think there is something going on inside his head’. A little later it felt like my head had exploded.