Stroke is an intensely individual, complex and life changing experience. Stroke recovery has many dimensions, and perceptions of health status are thought to affect recovery. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe patients' perceptions of their health status and their goals for recovery from early post stroke. Following ethical approval, semi structured interviews were conducted with patients (n=10) diagnosed with a first incident of stroke. Time following stroke onset ranged from 4 to 7 days. Gender difference was equal, and mean age of participants was 77 years. Participants considered themselves to be active and in excellent health prior to the stroke onset. All participants perceived that their health had declined since the stroke onset, but they were hopeful for the future. Two distinct themes emerged; "sudden fear and helplessness" and "regaining control in life". Participants reported wanting to quickly return to doing everyday things and identified individual goals for recovery. The patients' experience should be considered early post stroke to provide a complete picture of their role in recovery. Participants believed that the greatest challenge would be testing themselves at home. This study reinforces the importance of engaging with patients early post stroke so that recovery goals are identified that help restore meaning through the re-establishment of previous activities. Patient goals for recovery need to be discussed and devised in conjunction with health care professionals.
Key words: Stroke, health status, goals, recovery.