Community rallies to help bride struck down by stroke

A community is raising funds to help make life easier for stroke victim Heather Kent pictured here with her husband Gary.
A community is raising funds to help make life easier for stroke victim Heather Kent pictured here with her husband Gary.

Family and friends of a Clitheroe bride, who suffered a devastating stroke at the age of just 34, are rallying round to help her.

Life changed in a split second for Heather Kent when she had a massive brain bleed in November last year.

Gary and Heather Kent on their wedding day just a couple of months before Heather suffered a stroke.

Gary and Heather Kent on their wedding day just a couple of months before Heather suffered a stroke.

She collapsed as she was preparing an evening meal with Gary, her husband of only seven months.

Gary (43) who is Clitheroe born and bred, said: “It was a catastrophic thing to happen to Heather and in the first few days after she suffered the stroke doctors warned me to expect the worst.”

The stroke brought an abrupt end to the dream life the devoted couple were enjoying in Thailand where they worked together at a diving school, Gary as an instructor and Heather in the customer and accounts department.

Heather was rushed to hospital and once she was stable her parents flew her and a team of neurology staff to her native home in Cape Town, South Africa.

The couple met four years ago when Heather went on holiday to Thailand where Gary had worked as a diving instructor for several years.

After a holiday romance Heather returned to South Africa but the couple could not be kept apart and she flew back to Thailand so they could be together.

They were married in South Africa in April last year but returned to live in Thailand where the couple were planning their future and on the verge of hopefully managing their own diving school.

Gary, a former pupil of St James’ Primary and Clitheroe Royal Grammar schools, said: “While Heather was being treated in South Africa we made the decision to return to live in the UK.

“For me it was a case of returning to my roots but for Heather it was her first time here since she was a child and even then she was only here for a short time.”

Since settling back in Clitheroe and news of what had happened to Heather and how she faces a long road to recovery spread, the community has been rallying to help her.

Family friend Helen Powell set up a justgiving page to help raise funds to make life easier and more comfortable for Heather who is a British passport holder but is not entitled to any benefits to help ease her plight.

The first aim is to buy Heather a motorised scooter to give her some independence and freedom. Plans are also in the pipe-line for adaptations to the couple’s home to suit Heather’s needs.

So far donations stand at £2,500 which Gary said has left the couple feeling “very humble.”

He said: “The response has been incredible, we never expected anything like this and it has been wonderful to know there is that support out there for us, it means so much.

“Being dealt a shocking hand in life like this has turned everything upside down for us and all the plans we had made for our future were blown out of the water.

“But I believe it is how you deal with the situation you are in that makes all the difference.

“Heather is my inspiration in how she has dealt with this, she is so positive and optimistic with a great sense of humour and fun, something the stroke has not robbed her of.”

Donations from Gary’s friends and people who know him in the Ribble Valley have been flooding in along with support from many complete strangers.

Burnley mum Beth Schinkel decided to run 100 miles in four days to raise money after a chance meeting with Gary at Clitheroe Rugby Club where her husband, Getty, is the coach. She has also organised a fund raising dinner at the Bombay Lounge in Barrowford next Friday (August 18th).

Gary has also been stunned at the response from former pupils he taught to dive from all over the world who wanted to help the couple.

Gary added: “I would just like to say a huge thank you to Helen, Beth and to everyone who is helping us.

“This is all about Heather and helping her to get back some kind of quality of life.”

If you would like to make a donation go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/helpheathergetwheels