When a S'pore wellness company's chief executive had a stroke

Mr Aanandha Sharurajah documents his health crisis, recovery journey and reflections in a book titled Stroke Of Gratitude. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - As the group chief executive of a wellness company in Singapore, Mr Aanandha Sharurajah's life revolved around work. He was immensely stressed and had only four hours of sleep every night.

In 2012, however, he was forced to question his idea of happiness and success.

He was getting into his car after a lunch meeting when he had difficulty moving his right leg in. "It was bizarre. My leg was like a tree trunk refusing to be lifted from the floor," says Mr Aanandha, 65.

Sensing something was wrong, he called his wife and colleague to help him.

He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke, which was caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. He did not have any underlying medical conditions, but doctors told his family that the lack of sleep and the high stress levels at work could have triggered the stroke.

The right side of his body was paralysed and hewas completely unable to speak. He also lost the ability to process speech.

"While I could hear conversations around me, they just sounded like babble," says Mr Aanandha, who is married and has two daughters aged 29 and 28.

He documents his health crisis, recovery journey and reflections in a book titled Stroke Of Gratitude, which was launched on Tuesday (Aug 23).

Calling the period the darkest days of his life, Mr Aanandha says the stroke challenged his beliefs and he struggled to remain hopeful.

From managing a large corporation of 450 employees, he was reduced to grappling with simple tasks. He could not move on his own and had to relearn how to speak. He also lost his sense of confidence and felt powerless.

In addition to occupational therapy once a day, he also underwent speech therapy and physiotherapy twice a day for three months.

"It felt as though I was learning a completely new language with not even a three-year-old's vocabulary," says Mr Aanandha, who is now the chairman of Atos Wellness Group while his wife, Mrs Pathma Ananda, 63, is the chief executive.

Mr Aanandha Sharurajah in the hospital in July 2012 after he was diagnosed with a stroke. PHOTO: TRIYNKA ANANDA

Recovery was an arduous journey for Mr Aanandha, who had to use a wheelchair for three years.

Determined to improve his condition, he also tried a cocktail of treatment methods including ayurvedic massages, yoga, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

"The first few years of rehabilitation were challenging not only for my body, but also for my soul. It was difficult to come to terms with my condition. I struggled with the psychological pain of comparing things with my life before my stroke repeatedly," he says.

In a bid to move on from the mental agony, he and his wife attended Dr Darren Weissman's seminar on the power of love and gratitude in Adelaide in 2014. Dr Weissman is a United States-based chiropractic holistic physician.

Says Mr Aanandha: "Before the seminar, I felt purposeless and useless like I had nothing more to do in life. But after that, I was inspired to help others by sharing my journey in a book. A stroke is avoidable and I wanted to help people avoid the situation I was in. From then on, I accepted my debilitating stroke with a deep sense of gratitude."

He now walks with the aid of a quad cane. Though he can lift his right arm, he cannot pick up and hold items with his right hand.

He started writing the book in 2014 and finished it in March 2022.

Recovery was an arduous journey for Mr Aanandha, who had to use a wheelchair for three years. PHOTO: COURTESY OF AANANDHA SHARURAJAH

Post-stroke, Mr Aanandha pays more attention to his well-being.

He ensures that he sleeps eight hours a night and starts his day with deep breathing and meditation, followed by 20 minutes of light exercise. He also maintains a healthier vegetarian diet with less mock meat and oily dishes.

Apart from doing voluntary work, Mr Aanandha is also a stroke advocate with the Singapore National Stroke Association and has given talks to raise awareness of the illness.

Looking back, he recognises the irony of the situation.

"I was so often caught up in work that I didn't give my body, heart or overall well-being a second thought. I was not conscious of my health and, as the chief executive of a wellness company, it was deeply embarrassing and humbling to have suffered the way I have," he says.

Stroke Of Gratitude is priced at $29.90 and is available fromKinokuniya at Takashimaya Shopping Centre and WHSmith at Changi Airport. The e-book, priced at US$9.90 (S$13.80), is available on Amazon.com.

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