Ashley Martin

“Eight years ago my world completely changed. Today I look at it as a positive. I beat stroke and I’m now stronger for it and I never ever gave up. This is my story…

In April 2011 I was enjoying life as any teenager would at college, a completely fit and healthy young man.

As any seventeen year old would, I was beginning to learn how to drive, learning the basics and progressing towards my test.

I remember at the time heavily stressing and getting incredibly anxious before each driving lesson, and working myself up about it.

On the day, I was behind the wheel of the instructors car, driving through Loughborough, and all of a sudden I got a searing headache and a cold numbness down my left side, originally starting in my hand. I remember reaching for the air conditioning to try and turn it off but my hand just flopped off the side of the steering wheel.

The instructor noticed that something wasn’t right at all and stopped the car with his dual control. We swapped over and he took me home.

Before it happened to me I had no prior knowledge of stroke or how it feels to have one, but I remember the first thing I said to my mum as I came back to the house- “mum, I’ve had a stroke.” I don’t know how I knew that, it just came to me.

At that moment my mum was getting very worried, but slightly sceptical at the same time, as the main stigma around stroke is that it only happens to older people, however that is a complete misconception, it can happen to anyone of any age.

I sat down back at home and my mum gave me a glass of water, and as the water fell out the left side of my mouth we both instantly knew we had to get to the urgent care centre as soon as possible.

We rushed to the walk in centre and were seen by a doctor who unfortunately misdiagnosed me with a strong migraine and to go home, relax and take paracetamol. (Even the doctors wouldn’t believe I’ve had a stroke due to my age.) At that point we walked out through the reception, and luckily for me, not for everybody else watching, but I was violently sick everywhere.

Then things got serious, I was rushed to Leicester Royal Infirmary and then following that to Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham where I received absolutely incredible care, staying in hospital for around 2-3 weeks. It turned out that I had an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) on my brain that burst (a blood vessel that went wrong since birth) and could’ve burst at any point, but chose to do it while I was behind the wheel of a car on a driving lesson.

Following my time in hospital, my recovery began. It was a very difficult and extremely tough period of my life and I can’t thank my family and friends enough because without them I would’ve struggled so much more. On days when I was feeling low or that I didn’t have the will to do my physio exercises, they forced me and helped me realise that giving up is not an option. Without that I wouldn’t be in the healthy state I am today, having fortunately only slight numbness in my left hand fingertips and an ache in my left side.

During my recovery I had a lot of time to think and mull over my stroke while I was slowly regaining function of my left side. This period wasn’t just important physically but also mentally, as it made me form a mindset that I have to this day of pure determination and a never give up attitude. It’s fine to question why did this happen to me? But being negative about your situation will not help you in the long run.

In the Autumn of 2011 during my recovery, I was sent for a procedure called stereotactic radio surgery, to completely eradicate the blood vessel that caused my stroke. This procedure involved screwing a metal frame to my skull to ensure that I didn’t move during the operation and then having a laser shot at that specific part. This means I’m now at the same risk as any other member of the population for another stroke.

Following my recovery period I am happy to say that I’ve do so many amazing things, come so far and completed such great challenges in the last 8 years such as:

-Completing my A-Levels only months after my stroke

-Completing a uni degree

-Returning to complete my driving test after having a fear of getting behind the drivers seat again for 6 years

-Meeting my incredible girlfriend

-Going on amazing holidays such as Los Angeles and Maldives

-Starting up a stroke help group with a fellow stroke survivor

-Completing Tough Mudder, Wolf Run, 10k races, Triathlon, and now planning to do an Iron Man event next spring with this great new charity A Stroke of Luck.

I am now 8 years post stroke and so grateful to be here and in a place in my life where I want to help inspire others and show that you can beat something like this and move on, living a perfectly normal life, more than that even, living an incredible life!

My stroke filled me with an unbreakable, strong, positive mindset and attitude that I never would’ve had if it hadn’t happened to me. Now I can literally do anything in my mind because I have already beaten the biggest challenge out there, so what’s stopping me… NEVER GIVE UP!”