October 28th 2009 was a normal day for me. i went to work, went for a run on the beach, watched home and away, had dinner and went to bed. i had no idea at 19, fit, young and healthy my life was about to change forever.
in the early hours the following morning i was awoken by a call that an alarm that needed to be turned off. i went to put my jumper on and had alot of trouble putting my arms through the holes, assuming i must have slept on my arm i didn't think anything of it. when we got home the other person i was with got out and started walking inside but i couldn't, i couldn't open the door and get out of the car. after realising i was still in the car they came back opening the drivers door, asking "kad what are you doing? get out and come to bed, why aren't you getting out?", some how i managed to get out through the door that was open and back to bed i went.
when i woke up for work i noticed a very strange feeling in my right arm, for some reason my reaction was to bite my finger as hard as possible which i could not feel at all. still not fazed by anything at this point, i was helped to the shower as i was a bit unsteady on my feet. standing in the shower trying to wake out of it, i was handed the soap which went flying across the room, the i was handed my tooth brush which only got stabbed in my eye and dropped. by now there was a lot of "kad are you ok?, stop been silly, what are you doing?", all of which i had no idea but thought maybe something was wrong. by the time i got dressed my speech went from slurred to not understandable but i did manage to say "hospital, hospital'. when i got to hospital i rang the buzzer and walked into emergency, thats as far as i made it, i could not longer control the right side of my body or speak anything that resembled english. initially it was thought i had over dosed on drugs but as i have never taken drugs, smoked and very rarely drink, i just kept shaking my head over and over, until people got to the hospital that were able to defend me. i had a series of blood tests and was sent by ambulance to have a CT on my brain, both tests come back showing nothing abnormal so a conclusive diagnosis wasn't made but i was thought i was suffering a server migraine.
the time i spent in hospital following this initial 'episode' including my birthday, i received a lot of gifts and had a lot of visitors,i was in 2 minds about visitors and rather confused,i think everyone that visited must have had similar thoughts. for me it was instant, i wasn't worried, i knew what ever the reason i was in hospital i would be able to cope with it. however i didn't know what was wrong with me , in my mind i what i was saying and my movements were normal but that was not what everyone else was seeing and hearing. i remember i room of visitors, i was talking and talking but noone was responding, they were either crying or trying not to look at me, i just didn't get what was going on but i knew then and there that this would be harder for other people to accept. slowly according to everyone else i started to come back to normal with my speech and movements so i was released from hospital., little did i know this was only the beginning.
we decided to get more investigations and found a neurologist in sydney that would see me at short notice and without a referral. the first visit was strange for me, he asked a lot of random questions and i had to a series of what normally would have been very simple and easy memory and co-ordination tests, none of which i could do.the neurologist assumed the 'episode' could quiet possibly have been a stroke, i was taken off the pill as its likely to have been a contributing factor and more blood test, a MRI and a referral to a cardiologist we organised. over the next few weeks i had the MRI which clearly stated that it was indeed a stoke. the cardiologist performed a TOE ( heart ultrasound), which showed abnormalities. the main concern was a strong bubble study, meaning blood and flow from right to left (in a normal heart bubbles are filtered by the lungs and are only seen on the right side heart. if bubbles are shown in the left side of the heart it implies that there is and opening between the 2 sides of the heart which is abnormal). next i had the blood tests, which come back conclusive for Factor V Leiden (a blood clotting disorder that increase your chance of developing clots). the combination of these serious diagnosis's meant that i would need to take an anticoagulant to thin my blood, christmas eve 2009 i started clexane and warfrin which would reduce the chance of further clotting.i started regual blood tests and INR's to monitor this medication.
for the next year i slept a lot, went to a lot of appointments and had continuous investigations. there were cancelled and unsuccessful operations. after an unsuccessfully operation one of my cardiologists liaised with a leading professor in Atlanta, who suggested i could possibly have a AVM in my lungs, these were rare but i had the chest CT with contrast anyway just to rule it out. that test also come back positive. still with no surgery date i tried to do as many normal things as possible although i struggled with most i didn't let it get to me, there was already enough going. i did things that made me feel as though i was helping my recovery such as read novels out loud. by the time i got to the bottom of the page i had no clue what i had just read but i kept turning the pages because it seemed like an accomplishment to finish a book even though nothing had sunk in. i tried running but would never get far before i fell over, thankfully the running has got a lot better after a lot of persistence.
febuary 7th 2011 i had my second stroke. i was feel a bit different but now completely unaware of what normal feels like i didn't think anything of it. by luck i was texting someone at the time that was well aware of what could be happening when the messages i was send were not understandable words just a whole bunch of letters, calling to check my speech they new something was definitely wrong. i was still taking warfrin but after another MRI it was confirmed, yes that was another stroke. two weeks later i got a call at 8:30pm informing me i was scheduled for surgery at 7 the following morning, walking into the motel at almost 4o'clock i realised it was finally happening. laying in the operating waiting bay, it was all so familiar and like previous times a lot a of people were interested in my unusual case. i woke up around 4:30 am the morning after, the bed had been tilted upside down as my blood pressure tends to very low at the best of times. stubbornly i got up had a shower and got dressed, i was sitting ready to be picked up, thinking that it was all over.
i still have difficulty with a lot of things but it has become 'my normal'. the main issues are with my memory, speech, understanding written and verbal word, and i get easily confused. i have realised note pads are my new best friends. i have scarring and damage around the affected areas where the clots are, im prone to having stress induced seizures as a result of this and can lose memory and have very little recognition for days afterwards. my follow up cardiology appointments and further 3D TOE's uncovered i have another AVM which will need closing and i will continue have investigations and be closely monitored. neurologically im stable, nothing is improving and nothing is getting worse, and again im still closely monitored and medicated. having people judging me, either unaware or not completely understanding how having had 2 strokes effects you has been the hardest thing for me, memory, coordination, speech, paralysis, difficulty walking, swallowing, inability to locate pain and discern between hot and cold, loss off emotional control are all just things i have had to come to terms with and accept as part of my life, this is who i am. having a conversation that i initiate then completely having no idea why i was even talking or what i was talking about is very frustrating and embarrassing but oh well, im just thankful i can spread. the 'why me thought' has only crossed my mind once, i smiled to my self and thought "because i can handle this, thats why'.
as i found out the hard way small accidents and injuries can now have serious consequences. a snowboarding accident landed me in hospital. i had no feeling in both my legs from thighs down, i was getting poked and tapped with implements completely unaware. i spent time in a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again once feeling started coming back. i remember been held why i shuffled my feet along the lino unable to the them. i still don't have complete feeling in my toes and cant wiggle them. although im determine to continue doing all the activities i enjoy rather then wrapping my self in cotton wool, i realise i need to take a lot of extra precautions to ensure my health isn't jeopardised in any way.
im now 23 and despite the journey i have had so far and the continual challenges ahead i still believe i can accomplish success. recently i have started working in banking again which has been momentous achievement, i have an excellent support network who are very encouraging with my return to to work and the goals i have.
i can not be thankful enough to my medical team consisting of a GP, professors and my multiple cardiologists including those overseas, haematologist, dermatologist and 2 neurologists, they are always constantly in contact and always go above and beyond for me.
my story is just one one many, please help me raise awareness for this cause and raise funds for stoke prevention, research, stoke units, rehabilitation and out patient care. stokes are often over shadowed and people are not often aware of the severity. strokes are not just 'for old people' they are a reality that can affect anyone. i have been in different stroke units which a variety of people all of which have their own story, as much as im no fan of hospitals they have become like a second home which is full of one thing that is lacking outside those hospital walls, ACCEPTANCE! i am open to hearing from business or individuals that would like to be involved or help organise fund raising events please contact me.