Stroke patient story: ‘I had no idea I was at risk’
Stroke I had a bilateral thalamic stroke aged 40. It came entirely out of the blue, having never thought of myself as being at risk of having a stroke.
I had a bilateral thalamic stroke, on 1st July 2015, aged forty. It came entirely out of the blue, having never thought of myself as being at risk of having a stroke. Initially at A&E it was thought to be a type of migraine and it wasn't until four days later that it was diagnosed as a stroke following a MRI. Even though I had all the symptoms of the FAST stroke campaign, I was regarded as too young to have had a stroke by doctors at A&E.
I spent four weeks in hospital. Following the stroke, I had many tests done, such as angiogram, echocardiogram, 72-hour heart monitoring to try to establish the reason but everything was negative. Then on 1st September I was admitted back into hospital suffering with Atrial Fibrillation (AF). When the ambulance was called, my heart was racing from about 180 down to about 30 beats per minute. It was decided then by the stroke consultants that indeed AF was most probably the cause of my stroke.
I’d never been aware or even heard of AF before. I knew on occasions I suffered from palpitations but put it down to stress and lifestyle factors. I also knew my heart raced at the gym and during exercise but, again, never linked it to anything serious affecting my heart. I was fairly fit, only forty, didn't smoke, wasn't obese.
I was put on an anticoagulant whilst in hospital, and later further drugs were added to regulate my heart rate. However, in April 2016 I suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), and the anticoagulant was changed. Due to continually being symptomatic further drugs were added, and I was offered an ablation procedure, which I had in December 2016.
I suffered left side weakness following the stroke and I have spasticity in my foot, which is helped by an AFO foot splint to walk correctly, I also use a walking stick. We had to buy an automatic car to allow me to drive again. My parents took early retirement to help with my two young children (they were six and nine when I had the stroke), and my husband has changed his working hours so he can take our children to school.
Initially, I also suffered from aphasia, and still struggle now with words and speech when I'm tired. I also experience bad fatigue which is difficult to manage and socially difficult for many people to understand, especially as I look ok. I also suffer from chronic pain in my affected side. I'm exhausted every night. We take it day by day – I have good weeks and bad weeks.
I'm reducing the risk of another stroke by taking anticoagulant treatment and hopefully the ablation procedure will be a success, (I'm still experiencing chest pain and palpitations it's being monitored at the hospital, but it still early days). I do restorative yoga and rehab-Pilates for exercise, and mindfulness meditation for relaxation.
I still worry about having another stroke although support is available through an online group run by Different Strokes, a charity offering advice and support for younger stroke survivors, and sharing worries and experiences helps. Surprisingly, there are a lot of younger people out there suffering from the long-term effects of a stroke.