NICOLE MUNN, a mother of three, was brushing her two-year-old son’s teeth when she fell to the floor.

“I had no idea what was happening, so I just went to say ‘mummy’s being silly’ but it came out as gobbledygook,” she said.

“One of my older sons, who was 13 at the time, found me lying there and phoned my partner in tears.”

She didn’t know it then, but at 45, Nicole, from Brighton, had suffered a stroke, and it left her unable to speak, read and write due to a condition called aphasia.

She also lost the use of the right side of her body.

She said: “I learnt to read again with my little boy, and I went back to my job as a teaching assistant for a while on a part-time basis, but it wasn’t to be.”

Now, 11 years later, having regained most of her speech, she works as a befriender for the Sussex Community NHS Trust’s aphasia befriending service.

Her speech therapist Kirsty Maguire, who set up the service, asked her if she wanted to be involved.

Kirsty said: “There was nothing in the area for people who had had a stroke and were living with aphasia, so I decided to set up the befriending service.

“It’s people with aphasia visiting the houses of other people with aphasia, who might be struggling to adjust to their condition.

“Many people don’t understand that people with aphasia are fine in their heads, they just can’t get the words out.

“Somebody else who has the condition and who is living their life can have a different impact than we can as speech therapists.

“For people who can’t go out on their own any more, lack confidence and don’t want to go to a group, befriending helps with their confidence and quality of life and elevates their mood.”

Five people volunteering as befrienders for the service attend a meeting every six weeks at Hove Polyclinic, where they talk about new referrals and how their visits are going over tea and biscuits.

Paul Stocken, 50, who also lives in Brighton, spoke of the sense of isolation he felt following his stroke ten years ago.

He said: “I used to have a successful auto locksmith business. I had a lot of customers, but after my stroke, I felt depressed because I felt I didn’t have any friends.

“A lot of people offered to help me, but they didn’t.”

Nicole agreed, saying: “One of my friends said I couldn’t come to see her any more because she got too upset when I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say.

“The friends I know from school are few and far between now.”

Keith Chandler, 67, used to work as a civil engineer and was Sussex Track Cycling Champion in 1972. He said: “I didn’t have a stroke, I had brain surgery two years ago to remove a tumour, but it didn’t go to plan and now I have aphasia.”

Colin Lyall, 50, who also lives in Brighton and had a stroke five years ago, set up a charity, Say Aphasia, to offer support and drop-in sessions for people with the disorder.

He has also been a befriender for the last four years.

He said: “At the beginning, I could only say yes, no and swear words.

“The only way to get better is by talking, talking, talking.

“It’s good for survivors to have a chat for an hour or have a lunch and a walk with other survivors and it has also been good for my recovery to have those one-to-one conversations.

“There was a husband and wife who both had a stroke.

“Nicole and I both went to visit them and took them to Hassocks Garden Centre and took a photo of them holding hands in the park, which they hadn’t done for years.

“The husband could only say vowel sounds but when I sang Brighton and Hove Albion songs he joined in.

“He was a season ticket holder before his stroke, but he couldn’t go to the football alone afterwards so I took him.”

Seventy-year-old David Mortimer, who lives in Yapton, had a stroke when he was 64. Before that, he worked in the travel industry since he was 19 and finished his career as managing director of a tour operator.

Talking about his reasons for joining the befriending service, he said: “I had nothing else to do.

“It’s a great substitute for working.

“There was nothing in the local area until this service and Say Aphasia came along.”

Katie Herrington, another speech therapist for the NHS Trust, said: “We get caught up in giving them the therapy we offer, but the quality of life these people can give them is incredible.

“It’s good to bridge the gap, as our intensive speech therapy only lasts for four months and we are limited in what we can do.”

Zuher Panju, a support manager for the Stroke Association, said: “A stroke can leave someone feeling isolated in a number of ways.

“Befrienders offer personal support to stroke survivors and carers.

“In doing so, they help to reduce social isolation and build the confidence and self-esteem of the people they support.

“As a befriender, someone can support a stroke survivor on a one-to-one basis according to their individual needs.

“Befrienders will be helping people to achieve personal goals, become more independent and reintegrate with their community.”