UPBEAT: Paul Ashton at home in Warwick 10 years after having a major stroke at WIRAC.
UPBEAT: Paul Ashton at home in Warwick 10 years after having a major stroke at WIRAC. Gerard Walsh

The day my life was changed forever

WARWICK accountant Paul Ashton will be forever grateful to Marion White who spotted him lying on the bottom of the pool at WIRAC after a stroke on a Tuesday morning in September 10 years ago.

Mr Ashton was 60 and planned to ease back on his work at 63 and retire at 68.

But that all changed on that Tuesday morning in 2009 when he had a stroke while swimming laps at WIRAC.

Warwick resident Marion White was swimming in the next lane and spotted him on the bottom of the pool.

She immediately raised the alarm and luckily there was a group of 20-30 from Warwick emergency services at WIRAC doing a fitness program.

They rescued him from the pool and started CPR.

After being taken to Warwick Hospital, he was transferred to Toowoomba Base Hospital and was in intensive care for a week.

He doesn't remember anything of the stroke or his near-drowning but in hospital he knew something was wrong when they asked him what day, month and year it was and he couldn't give the answers.

Mr Ashton had another bleed (stroke) in hospital in Toowoomba three weeks after the first stroke when a registrar told him if he made it through the night he would be in a wheelchair all his life.

"Those words shattered me but also motivated me to get going and work hard to increase my mobility,” he said.

After four months in hospital in Toowoomba, four months of rehabilitation at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane and three months at the Warwick Hospital, he returned home.

Down the months and years since his stroke, his wife Maree Ashton, also an accountant, has been a constant at his side.

She is now running the accountancy practice, Paul Ashton and Associates, and heads home from work each day to prepare lunch for her husband.

"I did go into work a few times but it was futile, I couldn't do what I previously did and I am now only nominally involved.

"Maree runs the practice,” he said.

"I absolutely miss the hundreds of clients I had but appreciate their loyalty to the practice even though I am not there.”

He was working as an accountant for the State Government when he moved to Warwick in 1977 and joined a practice run by George Bourne.

For 10 years, he was on the state executive of Certified Practising Accountants Australia.

Mr Ashton doesn't look back on what might have been.

He keeps himself busy reading and has a good DVD collection of documentaries and movies.

"There is also a good supply of DVDs in the Warwick library,” he said.

"I watch a bit of sport on television.”

Most weeks, Mrs White calls in to the Ashton home on a Friday afternoon and they do crosswords.

"She saved my life. If it wasn't for Marion raising the alarm, I wouldn't be here,” he said.

He is paralysed on his left side and has been told by doctors that the lack of oxygen when he was on the bottom of the pool made his condition worse.

Mr Ashton doesn't blame his regular swimming until his stroke for his condition.

"The doctors said my fitness helped me get through, I would swim one or two kilometres four to five mornings a week,” he said.

"I loved swimming as a kid, my best in other sports was playing centre for two games in seconds rugby while at school at Gregory Terrace in Brisbane”

The good news is since he left hospital nine years ago, he hasn't been back.

"My condition is stable,” he said.

"As I had always been pretty much a handyman, I had envisaged helping others when I retired rather than depending on others.”

Mr Ashton said as frustrating as circumstances were and without past abilities and freedoms, he strived not to get disheartened or bitter.

"Mostly I manage to stay upbeat and keep my sense of humour.”