At last, British stroke patient Patrick Hoare heading home from Fresno

REEDLEY -- Patrick Hoare, the British patient stranded in Fresno when he had a stroke eight weeks ago, is ready to go home.

But before his return to London on Thursday, Hoare and his wife, Marina Hambly, wanted to attend a uniquely American event -- a football game.

At a Reedley College football practice Tuesday, Hoare and Hambly, along with daughter Lily, got a glimpse of how football is played in the central San Joaquin Valley.

"Boom, boom," Hoare said haltingly, as he watched Tiger linemen slamming into each other during a blocking drill.

The stroke affected Hoare's speech, but Hambly struggled as well to describe the scene on the field.

"I don't really know what I expected," Hambly said. "But whatever we just watched, it was really good."

Hoare's doctor, Tanya Warwick, tried to make sense of the movements on the field for Hoare and Hambly. The trek from Hoare's hospital room at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno to the Tigers field in Reedley was orchestrated by her fiancé, Tiger Assistant Coach Scott Pollock, who is also a security officer at Community.

Hambly and Lily have been staying with Warwick and Pollock in their Fresno home since Hoare's stroke on July 11. The London family was on vacation at Yosemite National Park when Hoare collapsed.

When Hambly expressed an interest in learning about American football, Pollock said he and Warwick made arrangements to bring the patient and his family to the football practice.

"They're our little English family. They don't have football over there. Their football is our soccer, I guess," Pollock said. "So they wanted to have a chance to experience college football."

They won't get a chance to see a Tiger game before they go home Thursday, he said. But the practice was a chance to see some pretty good athletes "running around in helmets and shoulder pads," he said.

Hoare, 48, and Hambly, 43, had hoped to make the 14-hour flight home to London at the end of July, but on Aug. 1, Hoare developed blood clots in his lungs, a complication that kept him in the hospital. On Tuesday, Warwick said he should make the trip home fine now.

"He was up walking this weekend," she said.

Hambly said she's anxious to be home, but nervous too. She's had so much help from hospital staff and from the community in Fresno, she said, "when we go home, I know reality is going to sink in."

While Hoare recovered the past two months, Hambly and Warwick have become friends. Warwick said she will miss Hambly and Lily.

"I'm going to be traumatized," she said. She hopes to go to London in 2012 to visit.

Hambly said words can't convey the family's gratitude to Warwick, Pollock, the staff at the hospital -- and to complete strangers like the man last week who handed her a card with $100 inside.

"Everybody has been so kind to us," she said.