Resilience as Sir Bob Parker, Lady Jo Nicholls-Parker face new chapter after stroke

Sir Bob Parker became an inspirational leader during the dark days immediately after the Christchurch earthquakes.

Now, Parker faces a challenge of a different kind.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Sunday programme, 68-year-old Parker and wife Lady Joanna Nicholls-Parker talked about a “new part of their journey” in the aftermath of Parker’s debilitating stroke.

“You don’t wake up each day feeling like today’s going to be a great day,” Parker said.

“You just wake up each day not knowing what it’ll be like at all.”

Parker collapsed at his Christchurch home with a stroke on October 5 while wife Lady Jo Nicholls-Parker was out running.

She returned to find him under a table.

“I heard this little tapping and he was actually under the table on the floor,” she said.

Parker spent 11 days in Christchurch Hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition before being transferred to a general ward for further monitoring and then the hospital care facility he lives at now.

The stroke has affected movement on Parker’s left side, his voice is softer and slower, and he is currently in a wheelchair.

“As you can hear, I don’t always speak straight. I just am what I am,” he told Sunday’s Jehan Casinader.

Christchurch-born Parker served two terms as the city’s mayor from 2007 to 2013.

His tenure spanned the 2010 and 2011 earthquake sequence which devastated the city, and on February 22, 2011 claimed the lives of 185 people.

He became a household name in New Zealand via his broadcasting career, starring on radio before becoming a much-loved face on TV.

His broadcasting career included hosting the New Zealand version of This Is Your Life between 1984 and 1996.

Casinader showed Parker footage of himself hosting This Is Your Life and later as mayor walking through the streets of Christchurch with John Key and speaking to a woman in tears.

Parker didn’t recognise himself in any of the clips.

Nicholls-Parker wasn’t sure what caused her husband’s stroke.

“Who knows. But what I do know is he asked a lot of himself and maybe that has just over time taken its toll.”

When asked if he looks forward to seeing Jo every day in the facility, his face is flooded with emotion.

“I do. She’s my favourite in my whole world. Joanna is everything for me.”

Parker is able to leave the facility for day trips to his Christchurch home or to a bar across town for a drink with Jo.

Nicholls-Parker said the couple were on a “new part of their journey”.

“I don’t know what this journey is going to be for me. But I’m up for it.”

Parker’s story came with a sobering warning. Head of The Stroke Foundation Jo Lambert said there were 11,000 strokes every year.

She said high blood pressure – one of the biggest causes of strokes – was a “silent killer”.

“Until we are made aware that we have high blood pressure by having a blood pressure check, we are living with effectively a bit of a time bomb going on in our bodies.”

When Parker was asked what advice he would give to someone else who was also going through a tough time, he said: “I can’t tell you much other than to say I’m with you, friend.”

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