Laurent is 59 years old and moved from France to the UK over 30 years ago. He is currently recovering from the effects of a severe stroke which he had towards the end of 2019. 

“We were watching a film when it happened,” explains Laurent’s wife Patricia.

“Fortunately, my son was in the house too and he called 999 very quickly. Laurent was taken to East Surrey Hospital where his condition swiftly deteriorated. His face dropped dramatically due to severe swelling on the brain and he lost all feeling in his right arm and leg.” 

Although his speech was initially fine, this also soon deteriorated – another side effect of the stroke – and Laurent was diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder which affects communication. He couldn’t do anything for himself and had to be fed through a tube. 

Laurent remained in hospital for six weeks, before being transferred to the QEF Neuro Rehabilitation Services in Banstead during the pandemic. He underwent three months of therapy at a time when his family were unable to visit due to Covid restrictions. 

“This was especially hard for Laurent because of his language difficulties,” says Patricia. “While he can understand what people are saying to him, Laurent has lost the ability to communicate in English and can now only speak in his native French. Even then, the words are sometimes muddled and what he means to say doesn’t come out right.”

Patricia had previously worked for YMCA East Surrey and was aware of the YMCA Exercise Referral programme. 

“The Stroke Rehabilitation classes seemed like the ideal place to turn to once Laurent came home as ongoing support is so limited for those recovering from a serious illness,” says Patricia. 

With the help of the YMCA Travel Fit minibus transport service to and from our Sports and Community Centre in Redhill, Laurent has now been attending the YMCA Exercise Referral classes twice a week for ten months.  

“I still work,” says Patricia, “and so it is not possible for me to drive Laurent everywhere. The minibus service has enabled him to regain his independence in a small way, which is so important for his own wellbeing.” 

Over the past year, our Exercise Referral team have supported 395 people with a resulting 14,360 specialised gym and class visits, both in person and online. 

Laurent can see an improvement in his physical health. “I feel more coordinated,” he says. “I am more supple; I can walk better, feel fitter and I aim to keep building up more strength in my arm.” 

YMCA Exercise Referral Coordinator, Carmel Dalby, says: 

“Laurent’s determination and dedication are fantastic. His balance is noticeably improved and he can now lift his right foot much higher, enabling him to walk up a step.” 

Along with the stimulation and physical activity he needs, the Exercise Referral classes have given Laurent a sense of community and a social outlet. 

Patricia says: 

“Before the stroke, he was very busy, working long hours as a chef. Laurent played golf, travelled widely and led a full life. His illness has had a big impact on our family and, while we accept that we must incorporate the effects into our lives, we don’t want it to take over.” 

“YMCA East Surrey’s Exercise Referral classes provide so much more than just a gym for the body. For that, we are very grateful.”

Find out more about our Exercise Referral service