When our much-loved colleague Lorraine Potter had a severe stroke at the start of the year she had to learn how to speak again – and to the delight of everyone at our Clacton-on-Sea store she's made such a great recovery that eight months later she's back providing fantastic customer service on the checkouts.
Fifty-two-year-old Lorraine, who's worked at our store since it opened four years ago, was taken to the high-dependency unit at Colchester Hospital where she found out that as well as having a stroke caused by a blood clot on the brain she also had pneumonia.
She said: "The stroke just came completely out of the blue. I got up as normal, had a shower then went to work but then I started to not feel very well. The store called my partner Gary to pick me up and when I got home I just went to bed. Gary then saw my eyes start to roll and he called 999. The only thing I remember was waking up with the paramedic saying 'we thought we'd lost you'."
"The stroke had caused me to lose the ability to speak. I knew what I wanted to say in my head, but I just could not get the words out. I love to talk and to chat, but I just couldn't. It was so frustrating. I thought how I am going to get through life without being unable to talk.
"On one occasion all the family came to visit me and they were all sat around telling me how much they loved me and I just sat there as I couldn't say it back.
"The stroke didn't effect my mobility, just my speech. I had to learn how to speak from scratch. When you say a word, you don't think of it, you just say it. But I couldn't. That part of my brain had died, so other parts of my brain are trying to compensate, but that can take a bit of time."
Lorraine says her motto is "never give up" and that she was so determined to make a full recovery and get back to work with what she calls her "Asda family".
"Through my speech therapist, Alice, I had to learn where to put my tongue in my mouth to say a word. I had to start all over again, but she was amazing, as was everyone at. the hospital."
Although Lorraine was allowed home after five days and put on a course of antibiotics for the pneumonia, Alice made regular visits to her. And now eight months later her speech has almost fully returned.
Lorraine, who now suffers from emphysema due to the pneumonia, says the support of her colleagues had made a great difference.
She said: "My colleagues have been wonderful. I just love them all so much. They have all been so caring and supportive. They messaged me and rang me all the time and some of them got my shopping too. I've never met such a bunch of loving, caring people. Everyone just looks out for you, even those who don't know you too well. It's so amazing here. I'd like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart".
Lorraine used to work on the pizza and fish counters, but is now on checkouts so she can sit down more.
She said: "The management here have been so good to me, they really have. They said they would work round me. If I do get tired at all they tell me to go home. It melts my heart really.
"I like it on checkouts as I love to chat and talk and the customers are very understanding."
The store's community champion Amy Openshaw says Lorraine is remarkable and everyone is delighted to have her back.
She said: "Lorraine's fought an amazing fight and so it’s lovely to have her back. We've all missed her very much. She's like a mum to us here; she calls us her Asda kids!
"She's come so far. At the beginning she could barely say a sentence to me but now ... the difference is amazing. It's phenomenal really when you think about it. You can't imagine what it's been like for her. I am massively proud of her. We all are here. She is an inspiration to us all.
"She's very popular in and store and we all love her. We call her the cake lady as, previously to all this, she'd bake cakes and bring them in every Saturday for all the colleagues. I did a bake off last year to raise money for Tickled Pink and Lorraine won that!"
Store manager Jason Walker said: "Lorraine is a great example of a colleague that goes above and beyond every single day. She puts others before herself daily, both customers and colleagues alike.
“Working at Asda is like an extended family and Lorraine is like a mum to many. Everyone at our store was devastated to hear the news of Lorraine falling ill, but we have been blown away by her exceptional recovery. She is an inspiration to us all and I am very proud to have her on our team."