Seven years ago Andy Martin, 44, from Mawnan Smith near Falmouth, had two strokes and a cardiac arrest which left him hospitalised for five months and with lifelong speech and sight impairments.
Andy, who had previously been an Operations Manager at a book factory, was initially unable to speak and didn’t think he would ever get back into paid work.
Fast forward to 2014 and Andy is celebrating his first paid job as a Café Assistant at the family run Cornish Maid Café in Mawnan Smith. He is a likeable, hardworking and highly respected member of the team and the local community.
Andy told us “I was in hospital for five months. I had to learn to speak again from scratch. I ended up going home to live with my Mum and Step-Dad here in Mawnan Smith.
“My confidence really went down hill. I didn’t like meeting people because I am very conscious of my speech and I became quite secluded. I also wear glasses with a frosted lens so I don’t see double.
“I didn’t think I would ever get back into work. I did want to but because of my speech I felt I couldn’t as I find it hard to communicate.”
Andy then discovered Pluss, a local Social Enterprise who has helped over 800 disabled people into work across Cornwall.
“Pluss could see the potential in me. I did some employability training and got advice on how to find a job. They helped me with my CV and to look for a job.
“This is my first job since I have had my stroke and it feels really good. Now I get out and about and I’m sure it’s because I work here. I know more people. I have a reason to get up in the morning. I think I’ve got more confidence and I am not as conscious as I used to be about my voice.”
Sarah Bailey, owner of the Cornish Maid Café is delighted with her new employee.
“Andy is very likeable, funny and has a positive attitude. He is punctual, willing and he chats to all the customers. They ask ‘Where’s Andy today?’ which just shows the response he gets from people.
“I first met Andy when he and his Pluss consultant used to meet here in the café. Andy then asked me for a job. I thought Andy was so young to have had a stroke and could see through this; after all a stroke could happen to anyone and everyone deserves a chance. If people don’t get given a chance then there’s no hope for any of us. So I said yes.
“Having Andy here has made a big difference to the business. It has also made us think differently about things; life in general. My Mum loves working with him and they work really well as a team. Andy also delivers lunch to a 93 year old in the village and it’s good that he helps me to help other people.
“I have really seen Andy’s confidence increase during his time here. He is smiling all the time now. I try and make him do that bit more; he’ll say no and I’ll say yes! I am keen for him to do lots of courses and to really push him forwards.”
Andy adds “I used to play rugby and now I am back in contact with my old friends. I recently ran 5k in the Mawnan Smith Fun Run where I raised over £600 for the Stroke Association. I have also just completed my Level 2 Food Hygiene and First Aid.”
“My whole family has helped me so much through this. I feel I am one of the lucky ones though because I have seen people who have had strokes that have no feeling in their arms. I live independently now although Mum still helps me with my finances, cleaning and ironing. I also love a game of golf with my Dad.”