Bath speaks out for stroke sufferers

Struggle: Chris Bath with father Don.
Struggle: Chris Bath with father Don. Photo: Lawrence Furzey/New Idea.

Seven newsreader Chris Bath has shared a deeply emotional story about her much-loved father, Don, a stroke victim, speaking out in frustration about the lack of support offered to sufferers and their families.

The veteran newsreader of 25 years, speaking on Seven's Sunday Night, hopes going public with her family's private struggle will raise awareness about strokes, the second biggest killer in Australia.

Bath was prompted to speak after her grandmother died in mid-May. In the four days leading up to her grandmother's death the newsreader slept on the hospital floor on the central coast, shuttling back to Sydney to read news bulletins every night. Her grandmother's dying words were to look after her father.

It was an epiphany for the very private Bath, who has watched her father's courageous battle since he suffered his stroke in 2009.

''She kept saying, 'Look after Donny.' I had four nights watching her die, because he couldn't be there, and ... watching him say goodbye to her was just awful, just terrible because of what the stroke had done to dad's brain,'' Bath reveals.

"It's strange that the catalyst was my grandmother passing away earlier this year. I don't think I really grieved about dad's stroke. I don't think I'd really come to terms with exactly what it meant even though I'd been seeing it for four years.''

She did some research and was stunned that despite the statistics - every 10 minutes in Australia someone has a stroke - so few made it to air. She barely remembered reporting a case. Worse, she felt, was learning that while 80 per cent of strokes were preventable there was no national co-ordinated approach to the disease.

''The big reason I think we don't hear enough about stroke - and I've worked in media for 25 years - is because it's difficult for stroke victims to come forward, it's difficult for them to communicate … so I want to try and be a mouthpiece for stroke and stroke victims so that people do know how many thousands of Australian's this affects,'' she says.

"I've been trying to help my mother for years, and I thought maybe I should be doing something more about stroke generally. Maybe that's how I look after dad, maybe that's how I make it mean something or how I try to make sense of what's happened?''

Bath says the day her father had his stroke she was in the make-up chair at Seven when she got a call from her sister. She rushed to Wyong Hospital and when she saw him lying on a slab, she says she thought he was dead.

Don survived the stroke. Bath says it took him more than a year to perform the simple act of drinking a glass of water because he had to learn to swallow again.

''The other untold story is the role of the carer … my mother says she doesn't feel like dad's wife any more. She feels like his nurse,'' Bath says. "I guess the surprise to me in all of this has been the love story between my parents - I never realised how much my mother loves my father and I never realised how much my dad loves my mum.''