Peter Conaghan

Pete describes his stroke as a ‘juggernaut’ which took control of his life and recalls his feeling at that time; ‘I was finished.’ 

That feeling, that all possibilities had been exhausted in the search for his old life, was to turn around 18 months ago when his family found Scottish War Blinded, an organisation which, Pete says, ‘has breathed new life into me.’

Peter confesses that despite being a veteran, he was unaware of Scottish War Blinded’s work with veterans with sight loss. Upon hearing about the charity he thought that it would be for people blinded during conflict.

Today he talks about how the team at the Linburn Centre in West Lothian, have supported his recovery, and have been in his words ‘the linchpin’ in transforming his life.

After his stroke, a fully accessible house was vital, and Peter struggled to find somewhere suitable. At that point, Scottish War Blinded stepped in and offered him an accessible new home in the grounds of the Linburn Estate, purpose built to be the perfect home for someone struggling with sight loss.

Pete describes moving into his new home as a ‘turning point in my recovery.’ Now within walking distance of the centre Pete began to attend daily strength and fitness classes, and sessions in the gym with personal trainer Keith. After much team work, he found his physical strength and co-ordination transformed; ‘When I first came here, I couldn’t so much as lift my hands above shoulder height – now I’m playing tennis!’

After a past life as an international runner for Scotland, and after jumping out of planes as a paratrooper, Pete found that the juxtaposition between his very active life, and his experiences after his stroke to be most frustrating.  He spoke of comparing ‘what I was, to what I am now.’ Yet he credits the attitude of centre staff to breaking down his barriers to find confidence in hard fought abilities.

‘I’d been told by my consultant to not go near a swimming pool, as the risks if I had a seizure were too high. Yet when I said I was interested in joining the weekly swimming trip, the team didn’t flinch, they made it possible, with the right number of people around me, for me to swim for the first time since my stroke. It was a great feeling of weightless-ness which I wouldn’t have experienced without their can-do attitude.’

A keen artist, Pete can be found often in the centre’s art room – where he is completing a series of portraits of Scotland’s famous runners, starting with the Sharp family. With assistance from tutor David to use specialist sight loss equipment, Pete has found painting to be a creative way to improve his co-ordination and strength with the satisfaction of seeing his hard work take shape. 

Pete has found that many veterans who have had sight loss as a result of a stroke wouldn’t approach Scottish War Blinded for help, as he himself says – ‘I thought the charity were only for the War Blinded.’ Now the chair of the centre’s Members Council, he is keen to find ways to challenge this perception of who the charity can help and encourage more veterans to see what opportunities the centre holds for them.

If you support a veteran who has suffered from a stroke and now experiences sight loss call 0800 035 6409 to get them the help they need today.