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Former Government worker, 49, suffered a stroke triggered by his COUGH

The cough that caused a stroke: Former Government worker, 49, had to quit his job of 30 years after nasty wheeze ripped an artery in his neck

  • Paul Park could only say a few words and had no use in his right hand side
  • Mr Park had worked in IT at the Ministry of Defence since the 1980s
  • After his stroke, Mr Park, from Cheltenham, spent six months in rehabilitation

A former Government worker has told how he suffered a stroke after a nasty cough caused a rip in his artery.

Paul Park, who had no underlying health issues, could only say a few words and had no use in his right hand side a few days after the stroke.

The 49-year-old, from Cheltenham, had to quit his job of 30 years working in IT at the Ministry of Defence.

He believes the stroke may have been caused by a tear in one of his carotid arteries, a problem triggered by his cough.

A carotid dissection – the medical term for a tear in one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain – is a known cause of stroke. 

Paul Park, who had no underlying health issues, could only say a few words and had no use in his right hand side a few days after the stroke

Mr Park said: ‘I had a nasty cold and a violent cough in the week leading up to my stroke, which may have caused the damage to the artery in my neck.

‘I remember my eyes just feeling like tiny little things that kept going and coming back.

‘After my stroke, I spent six months in rehabilitation. I could only say three words: “yes”, “no”, and “computer”.

‘I worked with computers for 30 years at the Ministry of Defence, but I had to leave the job after my stroke.’

Mr Park’s speech and movement have slowly improved in the two years since his stroke – thanks to his new found passion for art. 

He attends a Stroke Association support group, has regular speech and language therapy, and he has discovered a new found love for art.

Mr Park said: ‘Every Monday morning I attend a group with other stroke survivors and it’s great. For the first time, I recognise there are other people like me.

‘I love doing my art too, it’s helped so much. I love pastels, watercolours and oil painting even though I’ve had to learn to do it with my left hand.

‘My speech is improving, it’s getting better and better. From day one, I’ve tried to be positive and to keep going up and up.’

Mr Park is also helping to spread awareness that stroke can happen to anyone, anytime, and the effects it can have.

Recently he gave a talk at a school in Cheltenham to showcase his artwork, tell his story and talk about how learning to paint with his weaker hand.

Stuart Cooper, head of volunteering and community at the Stroke Association, said: ‘We are delighted to see the progress Paul has made. 

‘He has been so positive and worked so hard since his stroke – he’s a real inspiration.

‘Our volunteer groups can be a lifeline for people like Paul who are rebuilding their lives after stroke. 

He added: ‘We would like to hear from local people who can volunteer a few hours to help.’ 


A carotid dissection is a tear in one of your carotid arteries. These are a set of two arteries at the sides of your neck that supply blood to your brain.

A dissection is a tear of the inner layer of the wall of an artery. The tear lets blood get in between the layers of the wall and separate them. This causes the artery wall to bulge.

The bulge can slow or stop blood flow through the artery. It can also cause problems by pressing on nearby tissue or nerves.

The tear can also trigger your body’s clotting system. A clot can then block blood flow at the site of the tear. Blocked or decreased blood flow can lead to a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke.

A carotid dissection can happen at any age. It tends to occur more often in younger adults than in older adults. It is a common cause of stroke in people younger than age 50. It is slightly more common in men than in women.

This condition is often caused by a neck injury from things such as:

  • Swimming or scuba diving
  • Skating
  • Dancing
  • Playing sports such as tennis, basketball, or volleyball
  • Doing yoga
  • Riding roller coasters or other rides
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Giving birth
  • Having sex
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Having a chiropractic adjustment to your neck (rare)

Source: Cedars-Sinal Hospital