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Christmas stroke inspires Newcastle treechange


Happy, healthy and, with holidays on the horizon, John Duenzl had it all in December 2019.

That is until a shock stroke forced him to re-evaluate everything.

He had finished work for the year and put his out-of-office message on when he packed up the family for a much-needed trip to Halifax Beach.

But, that’s when life as he knew it changed.

“It was a normal day at the beach,” Mr Duenzl said.

“I had thrown a ball into the water, I swam out to get it and I started to lose my balance, vision and coordination.

“I couldn’t control my arms to swim and was screaming for my wife Trudy to save me.

“Thankfully, there were a number of people on the beach who recognised that I was experiencing some of the F.A.S.T signs of stroke.

“They pulled me from the water and called an ambulance while other strangers looked after our kids who were two and 11 at the time.”

A brain scan revealed the fit 37-year-old had experienced a stroke.

It was a huge jolt for the health-conscious father who visited the gym five times a week.

“I was fortunate enough to still be able to talk and I defied the odds with my ability to walk,” Mr Duenzl said.

“I felt excruciating pain in my head in the days afterwards and I feared I’d have another.”

Since then, Mr Duenzl has taken further steps to lower his stroke risk and blood pressure, including cutting out coffee and taking up skateboarding and surfing to improve his balance.

He and the family also made the move from Melbourne to Newcastle for a treechange.

“I wish we had done it sooner,” he said.

“However, my stroke was the catalyst for change.

“It’s made me more aware of the need to focus on my family and the things that matter most.”

As he approaches the third anniversary of his stroke, he has learnt to appreciate the little things in life.

“It’s not just Christmas that means more to me, every day of my life is better,” Mr Duenzl said.

“I thought I was doing a good job at looking after myself before but that was my lesson to do better.

“I now look at life through fresh eyes, I’ve gone through the emotional trauma and appreciate life much more now,”

Mr Duenzl is among the 145,000 stroke survivors living in NSW.

His message to others is to act F.A.S.T and learn the acronym to save someone else’s life.

What is F.A.S.T?

  • FACE – Has their mouth drooped?
  • ARMS – Can they lift both arms?
  • SPEECH – Is their speech slurred?
  • TIME – Is critical.

If any of these signs appears, phone 000 immediately.

For further information, visit the Stroke Foundation website.

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