Carly Eales shares her experience in adjusting to life post stroke

Two years on, Carly shares her experience in adjusting to life post stroke, the impact it has had on her family and the little milestones that keep her motivated.

Some of the topics discussed will get you thinking about your own experiences. If you feel any distress, talk with someone you trust—perhaps a family member, friend, or your doctor. If you need support, information or advice StrokeLine’s health professionals are available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, AEST. Call StrokeLine on 1800 787 653 or email strokeline@strokefoundation.org.au. Lifeline is available 24 hours a day on 13 11 44.

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Video transcript

Carly: I’m Carly Eales. I’m 43 years old. Mother of two children and Stroke Survivor and I stroked when I was 40 which was a terrible fright because I did not realise that I was stroking nor was I aware that stroke was so prevalent in younger age groups. I stroked when my youngest child was only eight months.

Brett: It was a pretty tricky situation for us all and very much a shock for the family. For an infant and then a young boy, in order to sort of try and understand that let alone me try and understand it as well. So you just don’t really believe that anyone our age would, would have a stroke really.

Carly: So when I stroked, I woke up one morning and I wasn’t feeling very well. We were very, very sleep deprived trying to manage a reflux baby. I really didn’t think twice about the fact that I couldn’t see properly for a short period of time. And I was dizzy, had a headache and was nauseous.

Now that I look back I realise there were so many little things occurring but I didn’t think twice about them. But it was the following morning when I continued to have a bad headache and was very dizzy that I called my GP. She said to me, if it’s still continuing this afternoon I think you should pop into the emergency room just to be sure that there’s nothing more serious going on. I had a CT which ended up being a contrast CT which is where the dyes injected to get a better view of the brain. And it did show some abnormalities. Over the next couple of days I began to experience more serious symptoms but interestingly, my family who were around me at the time still weren’t aware that these were signs of stroke.

So I had what is called a cryptogenic stroke, which is a stroke of unknown origin. And that’s a very hard diagnosis to live with because it doesn’t give conclusion. It doesn’t give an answer. And it’s, you live with a lot of fear that a stroke might occur again. Within a couple of days of being at home I couldn’t talk properly. My short-term memory was terrible. The dizziness and sensory overload was just unbelievable. I had to lie still in bed. I couldn’t have any lights. I couldn’t have any sound.

When things were very hard and fatigue was at its worst point and I pushed myself too hard, we all suffered because I couldn’t cope. I remember being told the most important thing I need to do at this point is rest. It’s very hard to do with two small children in the house. Who don’t fully understand what’s going on, but also their behavior had shifted. And it was in response to the distress and stress that was put on us. It doesn’t happen as often now but every so often he might just blurt out with, mummy, will you have a stroke again? So you can see that it’s still in, plays on his mind and he still worries about it.

Brett: I tried to adapt as fast as I could and to understand as quickly as I could. With Carly, she really kind of threw herself into the research and the understanding, and became as educated as she possibly could which helped me a great deal because, she was able to pass on her knowledge and her learnings and helped me to sort of get up to speed quickly.

Carly: It was just slow. And that is the one thing that is very hard for stroke survivors to understand. You just want to wake up one day and be well. But the reality is that it is a very long, slow journey. And two and a half years later, I am much healthier and much stronger, but a lot of deficits are here still and they will be here for life and you learn to live with them.

And so as these tiny milestones started to occur I realised that there was going to be light at the end of the tunnel, and I would be able to get back into my work at some form or another. And of course there is the personal journey attached to the experience of reassessing your life. Do I actually want to pick up where I left off? We found that we were much stronger and we got better outcomes when we were working together as a family unit.