Risk, Uncertainty and Life Threatening Trauma: Analysing Stroke Survivor's Accounts of Life After Stroke


  • Andy Alaszewski University of Kent at Canterbury
  • Helen Alaszewski University of Kent at Canterbury
  • Jonathan Potter Kent and Canterbury Hospital




stroke, stroke recovery, risk, risk-taking, time, uncertainty


This paper examines the ways in which stroke survivors identify and manage the risks and uncertainties of their situation. It draws on interview data from a UK study in East Kent of 31 stroke survivors (aged between 38 and 89 years). The interviews created accounts based on the experience of stroke and post stroke recovery. Stroke survivors experienced their stroke as an unanticipated event in which there was a failure of foresight. The stroke undermined their ontological security and increased their awareness of and anxiety about everyday activities both in and outside the home, created awareness of a new danger, that of having another potentially fatal stroke, and could damage their social standing. Survivors used a variety of strategies to manage such uncertainties. They shortened their time horizons, either abandoning longer-term plans or discussing them in very vague and general terms. They concentrated either on the present, "taking each day as it comes" or developed goals to structure the short-term future. These short-term goals involved challenges and there was in some cases the possibility of a harmful outcome. Such voluntary risk-taking provided an opportunity for "centre work" which could re-establish the stroke survivors social standing. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0601189


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Author Biographies

Andy Alaszewski, University of Kent at Canterbury

Andy ALASZEWSKI studied social anthropology and social and political sciences at the University of Cambridge. Andy specialises in using ethnographic approaches to generate an understanding of the ways in which vulnerable adults experienced their contact with formal services. In the last ten years he has focussed on the ways in which the assessment, perception and management of risk structures such experiences and the care which vulnerable adults receive. He is editor of the international journal Health, Risk and Society (published by Taylor and Francis). Andy worked at the University of Hull from 1976 until 2001 where he was Director of the Institute of Health Studies (1991-2000) and Professor of Health Studies (1992-2001). In 2001 he was elected Professor of Health Studies and Director of the Centre for Health Services Research at the University of Kent. He has just completed a methodological text for Sage on Using Diaries for Social Research and is author of over 200 publications.

Helen Alaszewski, University of Kent at Canterbury

Helen ALASZEWSKI qualified as a nurse in Hull and holds a BA in Health Studies from the University of Hull. Helen is an experienced health service researcher who has undertaken a range of project on the health and social care of vulnerable individuals living in the community. She is currently a Research Associate at the University of Canterbury.

Jonathan Potter, Kent and Canterbury Hospital

Jonathan POTTER studied animal physiology and medicine at the University of Oxford. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London. He combines medical practice (Consultant Geriatrician for East Kent Hospitals Trust; Programme Director, Health Care of Older People, Clinical Effectiveness & Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians of London) with research as Honorary Senior Lecture at the University of Kent.




How to Cite

Alaszewski, A., Alaszewski, H., & Potter, J. (2006). Risk, Uncertainty and Life Threatening Trauma: Analysing Stroke Survivor’s Accounts of Life After Stroke. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-7.1.53



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