Christmas is supposed to be a special time and for one Banbury couple this festive period should have been a triple celebration, with the arrival of their first-born child and a Christmas day birthday.
However Alex Athanasiadis and Natasha Bagnall are left wondering what the future holds after a medical emergency dealt the couple a devastating blow.
Alex and Natasha were enjoying a summer holiday in Greece this year when illness suddenly struck that resulted in Alex fighting to regain basic physical functions.
Natasha said: “He woke up that day and said ‘I’m not feeling well’. We were at the beach that day and he said ‘Natasha, something is happening’ and it was very apparent that his speech was slurred and their eyes are, well it was just horrible.”He was well, you would have never have known it to look at him. He bounces back and is back at work a few weeks later after every episode. He’s a real trooper.”
Alex, who will turn 46 on Christmas day, had suffered from a series of devastating strokes after which he fell into a coma, followed ten days later by a haemorrhagic stroke to his optical lobe.
Doctors believe this was caused by complications arising from previous aneurisms Alex had suffered 13 and two years previously, the latter requiring the insertion of a stent.
Natasha said: “
Alex’s stay in Greece lasted 25 days during which time only his basic physical needs were addressed and little, if any, specialist post-stroke care was administered.
Finally, after insurance paid out, Alex was repatriated to the UK and has remained under NHS hospital care ever since, first being transferred to the John Radcliffe, then Banbury’s Horton and now the Oxford Centre for Enablement at the Nuffield, where he is under the watchful eye of neuro specialists.
There is no good time for a potentially life-changing illness to strike but the timing of the strokes has been particularly hard on the couple as they were preparing their home for the new baby and Natasha has had to go through her first pregnancy without her partner’s involvement.
Natasha said: “We chose the names, we talked about names and that’s an important thing when you’re having a baby. It’s obviously hard not being able to share the journey with him. I have tried to share it with him but you can’t ever give someone that back.”
The emotional costs have been, to some extent, minimised by supportive friends, family and employers who have rallied around providing help where and when they can but the financial drain due to the situation has also been a heavy cross to bear.
Fuel costs alone for Natasha to take the daily trips to Oxford are running at about £250 per week so her boss, Naomi Newton-Sherlock, at Domino Jewellery, where Natasha works as a national accounts executive, has set up a GoFundMe page in the hope that one stress at least can be eased.
Naomi said: “Natasha and Alex are such a generous kind and thoughtful couple, their situation is simply heartbreaking and one that has touched so many people.”
Alex continues his fight towards normality and is taking small but significant steps in the right direction on a daily basis.
Natasha said: “He’s at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre so it has neuro specific physio, speech and language, occupational therapy. We bring the dog in to see Alex and you can tell Alex recognises the dog.”
Natasha’s due date was December 16 but she intends to let nature take its course with regards to the birth if he or she is late and has a hectic Christmas schedule lined up, involving Alex as much as she can.
She said: “We’ll come here obviously on Christmas day, being Alex’s birthday and Christmas as well, with all the family together to wish Alex all the best and try and make it as special for him as possible.”
To donate to the couple and follow the story visit www.gofundme.com/natashaandalex
We are pleased to report that Natasha gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Aris David Bagnall-Athanasiadis’ on December 30 2016.
Alex was introduced to his son within 24 hours of his birth and mother and baby are doing well.