The day that stroke changed my life at 21
Around 150,000 people a year in the UK suffer a stroke, a third of these people are under the age of 65, and around 1,000 people are under the age of 30.
Just over a year ago my knowledge of strokes was limited. Like most people I associated strokes with the elderly, or the extremely unhealthy. I didn’t know what a stroke was or how they happened, and at 21 years old… I didn’t really care.
Then, in October 2011, I unexpectedly became one of the statistics.
As a trainee hairdresser and part time Market Researcher, my life as a 21 year old young woman was not out of the ordinary. I worked hard during the week and at weekends, I loved to put my heels on, let my hair down and party with my boy friend and friends. Life was consistent and normal and I felt I knew where my future was heading.
On the morning of Tuesday 18 October 2011, I awoke hearing my dad leave for work. It was unusual for me to be awake as he leaves the house just before 6am every morning. I went to reach for my phone to check the time, but found I couldn’t. I attempted to lift my arm again, thinking I may have had a bad case of pins and needles, but my left arm lay motionless, as did my left leg. Panicking, I screamed for my mum who sleepily came in to my room to see what was wrong. Her sleepy, bleary eyed expression instantly changed in to one of horror and fear.
My mum rang for an ambulance and I was rushed in to hospital where a team of doctors and nurses were waiting for me at the entrance. There was no hiding the confusion and shock of the medics as I was being assessed and within an hour of admission I was told I had suffered a stroke.
No matter what age you are, when you are told you have had a stroke, there is no easy way to process that information. I lay there on the hospital bed, the left half of my body paralysed, surrounded by strange faces, being plugged into machines, and simply looked at the doctor and said: ‘OK.’
One in six people will have a stroke, and one in three of those individuals who are struck down with stroke, sadly do not survive. A third of people that survive after having a stroke are left disabled, and at the moment I fall into this particular category.
I spent two weeks in hospital in an elderly stroke ward where I underwent intense physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Having learnt how to walk again, albeit with the aid of two other people, a heavy limp and at an agonisingly slow pace, I was discharged from hospital under the strict instruction that my therapies would continue straight away with the community rehabilitation team.
While in hospital, I endured an array of scans and tests every single day, and following my discharge there were more investigations to take place. It was only when I was given a ‘water contrast echo’ (sometimes referred to as a bubble test) that the doctors discovered I had a hole in my heart. It is known as a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) and is described as a hole between the upper left and right chambers of the heart that fails to close naturally after a baby is born. It is said that one in four people have a PFO, yet it is uncommon for them to cause problems… This wasn’t the case when it came to mine.
Doctors suspect that a blood clot formed somewhere in my body and may have made its way through the hole in my heart, and travelled up to the right side of my brain to the section called the ‘Basil Ganglia Nuclei’, the part of my brain that controls my left side movement.
Finally finding a probable cause and possible reason behind the stroke, I felt relieved, and in June of this year I had the PFO closed. The procedure was simple and extremely non-invasive, and I was home after 2 days, followed by a week of rest.
Over a year on from the stroke, I am still in recovery. The left side of my body is weak, and I suffer with extreme fatigue. I walk with a limp and struggle to use my left arm and hand, but I am a determined character and know that I have achieved so much in the past year and intend to keep improving with each day that comes.
Stroke changed my life dramatically, but I try not to feel sorry for myself. I feel lucky that my stroke attacked only my body and not my mind, allowing me to tell my story and hopefully raise awareness of stroke, specifically in the younger generation. Having got engaged earlier this year I want to focus on my future and immerse myself in positivity. I hope my voicing my experience allows other younger survivors, like myself, to see that there is life after stroke.Tagged in: Patent Foramen Ovale, stroke, survivor
Recent Posts on Health
- World Aids Day 2013: No time for complacency
- Living with Rett Syndrome: Trying to face some inevitable truths
- Living with Rett Syndrome: Walking in someone else's shoes
- The HPV vaccine: Preventing cervical cancer in the developing world
- Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day: Why we need to know about this breast cancer middle ground
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter