Man counts to 100 for first time since major stroke for Captain Tom challenge

Edd Dracott, PA
·4-min read

A man has counted to 100 for the first time since he suffered a major stroke, as part of the Captain Tom 100 campaign.

The campaign asks people to create their own charity challenge themed around the number 100 to mark what would have been famous fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore’s 101st birthday.

Gary Yates, who is originally from Leicester but now lives in St Gallen, Switzerland, achieved the milestone after weeks of practice and numerous failed attempts.

The 58-year-old lost his ability to speak and is now cared for by his wife Pauline after he had a severe ischemic stroke two and a half years ago.

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“I can’t tell you how proud I am. There is only me who knows what he had to put into that every single day – he’s been practising for weeks,” Mrs Yates, 66, told the PA news agency.

“Gary’s the sort of person who has always taken life in his stride. I’m very lucky.

“He’s one of the calmest people, he never complains, he never blames life.”

Mrs Yates encouraged her husband to take on the Captain Tom 100 challenge as an added motivation to improve his speech, which is hampered by his short-term memory loss.

Among other exercises, Mr Yates also practises his speech with his wife by pretending to order a coffee – using hand signals to remind himself of the words he needs to remember.

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Asked if she felt the count could be a turning point in his recovery, Mrs Yates said: “It’s something that you can grab on to.

“When we first saw Captain Tom on television I looked at it and I said to Gary, ‘if that guy at nearly 100 years of age can even think of doing something like this then there is no bounds for what you can do’.”

Mrs Yates said she has “so many” videos of Mr Yates attempting the count.

“If people saw all the videos, they would understand what a stroke does… I’m trying to get people to understand that,” she said.

“He’ll count to 10 perfectly, and then he’ll go ’10, 11, 15, 79′.”

In footage of one attempt, which Mrs Yates said “made us laugh and shows the difficulty”, she gives her husband a 15-second introduction before Mr Yates promptly starts the count with the number two.

Mr and Mrs Yates (Gary Yates/PA)
Mr and Mrs Yates (Gary Yates/PA)

Mr Yates’ success drew encouraging comments from users on Twitter, where his wife posted the video.

“He’s really thrilled… I read them out to him it makes him very proud,” Mrs Yates added.

Originally from Derby, Mrs Yates used to work as a wig specialist for women who have lost their hair but gave up the business to care for Mr Yates full time.

He had a stroke while the couple were on holiday in Spain.

“He was fit and healthy, it was such a shock… there was no warning, none of this face dropping, nothing,” said Mrs Yates.

“I just turned away to look out the window, felt the table shake, looked around to see what he was doing. And that was it.

“What it’s taken from his life is, well, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Mrs Yates has written two books about their experiences of the condition – called The Stroke: Our Extraordinary Journey.

Mrs Yates’ book explains the difficulties faced by the couple since his stroke (Pauline Yates/PA)
Mrs Yates’ book explains the difficulties faced by the couple since his stroke (Pauline Yates/PA)

Mr Yates’ efforts have raised more than £1,000 for the Stroke Association “in the hope that some of the money will go to help other people”, according to his wife.

“I can do everything for Gary, but there are people out there who have had strokes and live on their own – they don’t have anybody to help,” she added.

To contribute to Mr Yates’ cause, raising money for the Stroke Association, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/garys-captain-tom-100-challenge