A DETERMINED pensioner has finally returned home almost eight years after a severe stroke left her paralysed.
Nan Steele (pictured left) , whose recovery has been described as "an absolute miracle", confounded all expectations after she was left unable to talk, walk and eat.
But the feisty 80-year-old refused to give up fighting and this week made a permanent return to her home in Inverness where she collapsed on Christmas Eve 2010 and subsequently underwent emergency surgery in Abderdeen.
Her husband, Gordon, and son, James – an international chef who has cooked for A-list celebrities such as actress Sienna Miller, the late Terry Wogan and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes – joined staff and residents for a leaving party at the Southside Nursing Home where she has been cared for during the last six-and-half years.
Mrs Steele, of Lodge Avenue, Drummond, also visited a city centre bar to enjoy a celebratory cocktail with her son.
She revealed there was a time when she wondered whether she would be able to return home but gradually she regained her speech, the ability to walk and no longer had to be fed via a tube.
"I don’t think very many people get out of a home," said Mrs Steele, one of seven sisters born in Oban. "But I have had a lot of support and I have a lot of determination. I decided I was definitely not going to look at four walls.
"It was sheer willpower. Every day I told myself, ‘I know where I have been and I certainly know where I am going and I am going to walk’. It was exhausting. Some people give up but I never gave up."
She also acknowledged the tremendous help she has had from her family plus staff at the nursing home in battling her way back to recovery,
"They knew I was determined," she said. "I don’t like people looking after me.
"When I got up on my feet, the encouragement from the staff at Southside was great. It was a great comfort to me."
As her recovery progressed, staff took her out for short trips to the shops or for a coffee and more recently she has been able to spend several hours at her house during the day but always returned to the nursing home at night. With a care package now in place to enable her to enjoy her independence, she has now been able to rejoin her husband at their home which has been adapted.
Their son paid tribute to his "amazing" mother.
"Her recovery is an absolute miracle," said Mr Steele. "She is so strong and very tenacious – I think she was almost running the nursing home! The team at Southside has been superb. She has had absolutely exemplary care there,"
He revealed he had turned down work at times to help with his mother’s care and support his father.
"For a long time, we were in limbo," he said. "There was no way I was going to turn my back on her. She is my inspiration."
He recalled arriving home from London on the night of Christmas Eve when his mother collapsed with a severe headache.
Initially, she was admitted to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness but following complications she was taken by air ambulance on Christmas Day to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where neurosurgeon Dr Sayed Al-Hadad performed emergency brain surgery.
She was in an induced coma for two weeks and then spent several weeks in the high dependency unit before being transferred back to Raigmore Hospital where she remained for a year. She was then moved to Southside Nursing Home as she still required 24-hour care.
Mr Steele said following her initial emergency admission to Raigmore, the family had raised concerns about the procedures regarding out-of-hours scanning and these had been upheld by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about five years ago.
Although he wanted to draw a line under the episode, he said: "We want to make sure other families don’t go through the same turmoil. The equipment is there. the facilities are there but we felt there were lapses in protocol."
Nursing home manager Abby Ewan said she had never met anyone with such determination or as headstrong as Mrs Steele.
"When she first came to us, she was a shell," she recalled. "There was nothing to her. Back then, I would have said it was impossible she would be going home.
"But we all saw how much she wanted to go home. She wanted it really badly over the last two years and now it is finally happening. It is brilliant."