One of the questions I get asked a lot by people I am meeting for the first time is: "Yes, but why should I listen to you? What makes you qualified to talk about work-stress and stroke-awareness?''
My answer, of course, is that I've suffered a stroke, been through everything that comes with it and escaped from the other end of the tunnel with my life more-or-less intact.
I don't intend to get into a pointless argument about whether you have to have actually experienced something yourself to be an expert in it, but I do know that my life-experience makes me at least as qualified as anyone else (and probably more) to talk about work-stress and stroke-awareness.
It also means that when the media want someone to comment on stroke, because it's the 'hot' story of the day, I am someone who immediately springs to mind. In my previous life as a journalist, of course, I've seen this from the other side. As a reporter or researcher or presenter or editor (or even content-curator, as the millennial phrase puts it), you need to have a book full of contacts; people or organisations you can rely on to instantly provide a succinct quote on whatever topic is their speciality.
I'm pleased to say that over the last two or three years, I've started to become one of those people. I'm not sure whether it's because my journalistic background enables me to explain things clearly and succinctly, or because my story is so compelling in itself, but I have stared to find that whenever the subject of stroke is in the news, my phone rings. It happened this week.
On Thursday, new figures were unveiled showing that the average age of people in England suffering a stroke for the first time has fallen over the past decade; between 2007-16, it went down from 71 to 68 for men and from 75 to 73 for women.
This was put down to a fall in the proportion of strokes suffered by the elderly, partly due to better healthcare. But the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by people aged between 40 and 69 had gone up from 33% to 38% - I was 49 when I had my stroke.
In newsrooms all over the country, journalists were scrambling to find 'middle-aged' stroke-survivors to tell their stories. At 10.35, my phone rang - it was a journalist from Channel 5 News wondering if I could get to London ASAP and at their expense to be interviewed. Unfortunately, an appointment that afternoon with a medical consultant in Tamworth made that difficult and they obviously found someone closer to the only city in the country that matters (I'm joking, obviously.....) because they didn't ring me back.
No matter. Earlier in the week, I had been contacted by the producer of the Graham Torrington show on BBC Radio WM. They had first interviewed me a couple of years ago and had obviously been impressed because they wanted an update. Originally, the idea had been to pre-record the interview and save it for broadcast next week. But when the stroke-statistics story broke, the plan changed so that I would be interviewed 'off-air' and it would be played on Thursday night's show.
In addition, what was probably intended as a 15-minute interview ran for 30 minutes. I think it's good but you can judge for yourselves at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05srj8z#play. My interview starts about an hour and 28 minutes and runs for 30 minutes. It'll be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast. Please give it a listen. Hopefully, it'll help you understand why I do what I do - and why I feel qualified to talk about it.