Colin Silk shares his stroke journey as part of National Stroke Week

Strong: Colin Silk was a guest speaker at Fairfield Hospital's National Stroke Week event. Picture: Simon Bennett
Strong: Colin Silk was a guest speaker at Fairfield Hospital's National Stroke Week event. Picture: Simon Bennett

With a clenched fist Colin Silk knocks on his head.

"This skull is as strong as yours now - only I have titanium," he said.

It wasn't always the case. In fact, there were times where the 58-year-old was missing part of his skull.

Rewind to 2010 and the experienced optometrist went to work with what he thought was a "huge headache".

It turned out a blood vessel in his brain had leaked and oxygen wasn't able to reach brain.

"I saw one patient and then my face dropped, my left arm didn't work and my speech was shot," he said.

"I got to Nepean Hospital within half an hour and I had a scan and they said I had a hemorrhagic stroke.

"I had massive swelling in the brain and intracranial pressure. I wasn't panicked. I am pretty good at calming myself, but I knew something was wrong."

Mr Silk's stroke journey had only just begun. It's a journey he shared as part of Fairfield Hospital's National Stroke Week event on Thursday which saw staff from different areas of health on hand to talk about stroke-specific care.

Colin after surgery.

Colin after surgery.

He underwent a decompressive craniectomy to reduce pressure on the brain, which resulted in part of his skull being put on ice at the NSW Bone Bank, due to swelling. The bone was put back in months later, but he had to wear a helmet to protect his brain.

He also had to learn how to walk again. Sitting without falling over was a big thing. Standing took ages. Three and half months later he took his first steps with the aid of a quad stick.

Nine years later, and his left vision is still impacted and he is unable to use his left arm, resulting in him no longer practising as an optometrist.

But he is alive, adapting and helping others.

"With a stroke you don't realise your potential. They thought I might be wheelchair-bound forever," said Silk, who had no risk factors leading up to his stroke.

"The big aim for someone who has a stroke is not have a second one and to walk. When I took my first steps it was magic; I was crying. A stroke can happen to anyone. I thought I was young at 49, but I have met someone who had a stroke at 23. I tell people to focus on their goals because you never know when things change."

Mr Silk, who lives in Greystanes, now likes to teach other stroke survivors how to cook one-handed using a combination of adaptive and readily available tools and equipment.

South Western Sydney Local Health District Academic Head of Stroke Research, Dr Dennis Cordato, said they were working on a range of trials to improve stroke patient outcomes.

The research group is looking for people who are at least six months post-stroke and are experiencing fatigue.

"Fatigue is very common after stroke. The drug being trialled is used for other causes of fatigue and, there is another trial where we are comparing two different clot-busting drugs," Dr Cordato said. "The trials we're involved in can help improve the quality of life for stroke survivors."