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Keith’s Reader Story – “The readings invigorated me” 

Written by Lily Kehoe, 27th November 2023

Keith, a 60 year old patient at Warrington Hospital, found his life turned on its head after suffering a stroke at a business meeting. Keith is married with a grown up son and prides himself in his career as a chief engineer and team leader at a vehicle leasing company.  

When we met Keith, he’d been an inpatient at the hospital for five weeks, and was preparing to be discharged with a care package in place. This article is a recollection of our conversation. 

Keith begins, “I suspected that I wasn’t well before I had the stroke. We’re told to ‘listen to your body’ but having the stroke has given me a full body MOT. There have been lots of complications and physical challenges.  

“I hit what I would call rock bottom about two weeks ago. I was lying in bed and crying my eyes out. The doctor had encouraged me to begin to look forward and make plans, but I phoned my wife and said ‘How can I?’ 

“I find myself clamouring for my old life – I’ve never been horizontal for this length of time. I have a sports car at home, and now I won’t even be able to physically get into it.” 

Physical and mental care 

Keith received amazing physical care at Warrington Hospital, and was also invited to join two groups – the poetry group and the singing group. The Shared Reading poetry group is run by two trained Reader Leaders who create the time and space for patients to gather together to read a poem aloud, and let the conversation flow from it.  

He reflects, “I’ve had to receive lots of medical care here in Warrington – a stroke has many different aspects and complexities. But it is not just physical repair I need. I also need to repair my mental health as I think back to my old life and what I have lost. 

“I’ve never been someone who is a reader of poetry, but I am open-minded and so I approached the group in that way.  

Diverse lives 

“I was wide-eyed at how diverse the group was. I’m one of the younger members – but as you read and the conversation flows, you learn so much about other people. Their lives and backgrounds give me something to think about when I climb into bed. I’ve always sought to get to know where people have come from – I had a storyboard at work to help me appreciate how my colleagues have got to where they’ve got to – and this group gives me a similar connection.  

“The readings invigorated me – they took me outside of the hospital into ‘my world’. We talk about things you can relate to – whether that’s the old corner shop, the Coronation, black and white TVs or caravan holidays! The conversation winds around the group, and it’s interesting to hear other people share. We get out of the shell of being here.  

“We don’t feel embarrassed when we are reading together – we talk freely. Much of that is because the team that run it are so down to earth, they share their experiences and are relatable. We each share and it helps me to relax. It takes the sting out of being self-conscious when people share their own experiences.  

Rock bottom 

“Laughter and levity have always been a big part of my life. I’m known as being a ‘glass half full’ person – I was seen as a bit of a joker with my colleagues and friends. I try to see the funny side of situations because I believe that light heartedness takes the weight off. However, when I hit rock bottom, as I have done since having the stroke, my glass was empty. I’m not ashamed of crying to my wife the way I did that day, but it does highlight my need for mental repair. 

“The group has been a place where I have been able to vent my feelings. Where a diverse group of people can find a common and universal experience. Where we listen to, and respect each other. It’s been important to me.  

Universal connection 

“Being in the group also gives me the opportunity to sit in a wheelchair – which is another part of my physical therapy. Again, that takes my mind off things. I feel like I have broken free from being on the ward! 

“The secret to Shared Reading is being open minded. To accept each other, listen to each other and as you do that to find that we are connected by a universal life experience – whatever your background, when you are in that place reading and listening, it opens your eyes.” 


As a charity we rely on the generous support of individuals and organisations to help us change lives through Shared Reading. A donation allows us to train volunteers, provide resources for groups and help reach more people. We want to make sure everyone can attend a Shared Reading group, no matter their background, income or situation, and we'll be so grateful for your help.

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