I considered myself to be a relatively healthy, 34-year-old busy mum to a young daughter, always living life at 100 mph, working full time for a London Insurance Brokers and juggling life with a 4-year-old.
Keeping friendships going and carting my daughter to and from her many clubs meant that trying to find some time for myself was far from easy. Looking back, I was probably burning the candle at both ends, all the time, but I loved having a full schedule; it was my comfort zone in life.
2020 was already a strange year for everyone; full of uncertainty and anxiety, brought on by the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. I had to quickly adapt to working at home and juggle childcare during the times of lockdown. It was not easy.
The run up to Christmas was as busy at it could be during a national lockdown. It was December 23rd 2020 and my daughter woke up at a normal time of 6am. As usual, I got out of bed and felt fine. I went into the kitchen where suddenly, a rush of dizziness came over me, followed by blurred vision and a real fog-like feeling going on in my head. I stumbled to the sofa where I suddenly felt so panicked; I thought I was going to faint at this point. Because I was panicking about my daughter, I dashed to my neighbour for help. At this point, I could not stand without falling. 999 was called. My speech became slurred and I could not talk properly. My tongue felt too big for my mouth; I just did not remember experiencing any of these symptoms before.
The paramedics arrived and performed various observations. They quickly concluded that I had experienced a panic attack but because of what was happening to me; and with my speech not being normal, I really was not sure they were right.
I was told to rest and over the next 24 hours, I was in and out of a sleep. My body felt so strange and I felt so weak. It was 2am when I woke up and went to scratch my nose to feel numbness across my hand, I was in a very dazed state, but must have gone back to sleep. At 6am, I woke up for my daughter, but having attempted to get out of bed, I collapsed. I then began to realise that my whole left side had become paralysed, with no feeling at all. I was unable to hold my mobile or make a phone call. My daughter helped me call my mum and she quickly contacted my brother to ask him to take me to hospital.
Due to my age, the nurses at the hospital did not want to believe I was suffering from anything serious and the suggestion of it being a stroke was dismissed about 4 times. However, once I had a CT scan, it was confirmed that I had suffered a right MCA Ischemic stroke.
Being in hospital over Christmas was heart-breaking. Not seeing my little girl was hard enough but during this festive period, it was particularly tough. I was in hospital for 6 days before I was discharged and could go home.
Recovery has been challenging. I am still ‘sole parenting’ my daughter so on some days, resting and rehabilitation are limited.
It is now 9 weeks since my stroke and I am going to be in discussions with my employer about a phased return to work, in whatever capacity that may be. Fatigue cripples me daily but I still need to identify my limitations and understand my ‘new body and brain’. Frustration gets the better of me a lot and I probably push myself way too much; but I am determined to get used to the new version of my life, knowing I must be aware of what I am able to do without pushing my body to the limits: that only causes me to be written off for days afterwards so I need to find the right balance. I have learnt about the Green, Amber, and Red strategy and am adopting that to support my fatigue.
Very luckily, mobility quickly returned on my left side. However, I still cannot feel hot and cold sensations, so the sensory part of my brain is still damaged. My speech returned within a couple of days; however, my taste buds and mouth still struggle. My face no longer droops, which is a huge sign of progress.
I would say that the people around me have been key to my recovery. My mum, who lives locally, has helped massively by being there to hold me up and help with the care of my daughter. She has had to juggle working with helping me out, and I would not have been able to cope so well without her.
My friends have also been there to support me but, due to the restrictions, it has been limited. This has made life hard and lonely at times.
My boyfriend Mark, who I met only 6 months ago, has stuck by my side and I will be forever grateful to him for that. Having a stroke in a newly formed relationship has taken its toll and pushed it to the limits, but we are defying expectations and getting through the waves.
Mark is extremely supportive and helps me whenever he can, by taking me to appointments or reassuring me that we will get through this together. It has not been easy for him either but considering he hardly knew me before I had a stroke, he has coped remarkably well.
I need to acknowledge the strength and resilience my daughter Neve has shown, how brave she has been and how well she is coping despite seeing her mummy become so poorly. I am so proud of her. She helps me in many ways, not only with little chores around the house but mentally too: she gives me the drive to get better so that I’m able to be there for her as I was before my stroke.
This is an extremely emotional journey, not just in adapting to the changes your body is going through in terms of recovering from this major event; but also, in accepting that you are not the same person that you were pre-Stroke. This is not necessarily a bad thing; just a new path to explore and potentially, a chance to change whatever you did not like before.
I am excited for the road ahead. I have a long way to go but I will get there. Life is precious and ever more so, and I am going to live each day to the max.