The last thing this 45 year old nurse expected was to experience a stroke

Shannon speaks about managing apraxia and aphasia following her “massive stroke”. Her determination to be a survivor sees her continue to achieve milestones in her recovery.

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

Shannon: I’m Shannon, I was 45 when my life changed forever. I was a busy mum working full time, and it sort of came out of the blue. I went to bed on the Sunday night, it was mother’s day. And I woke up and I was thrashing around in bed, and then I fell out. Stuart rushed around the bed and tried to pick me up, and he recognised the stroke immediately. So my face was drooped, I couldn’t speak, I was paralysed down the right side. And I remember him saying to the Triple Zero operator, “I think my wife is having a stroke”. The paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later. As they were dragging me down the hallway, I saw Gemma and I thought to myself, “I mightn’t get through this”.

So I arrived at hospital, I was met by the stroke team and they rushed me into CT. And I was diagnosed with a left middle cerebral artery ischemic stroke. And it was a clot. The clot busting medication has to be given within four and a half hours. So that was lucky. The next day I was walking, I still couldn’t speak. My non-verbal communication was really getting a work out.

I decided on day three, that I wasn’t going to be a victim, I was going to be a stroke survivor. The handy thing they gave me was a white board, so I could finally communicate. I felt that I got a lot of information, but I sought out the information because I was in the medical field, I was a nurse. So although I couldn’t talk, I could write. And I said, “Why, why did I have the stroke?” And I finally spoke one week after.

I have apraxia and aphasia. So apraxia is difficulty planning and coordinating the muscles used during speech. My aphasia affects my verbs, so, just describing words and that sort of thing. I had no usable functions, so in my right hand, they gave me exercises to do and they gave me a TENS machine. By week three, I was doing this, I could hold a cup. And then I had speech therapy twice a day and I did my own speech therapy. They did an echocardiogram and this found the hole in my heart, which I didn’t know I had. So, I was in a hospital three and a half weeks. I went to the stroke clinic about seven weeks later, the doctor was surprised when I walked in and I was talking, because he just viewed my scans and he described mine as a massive stroke. So I viewed my scans and my left brain was dying, it was completely cut off from oxygen.

He said, “Oh, are you driving?” And I said, “No, no one’s told me I can drive.” And he said, “Ah, you can drive.” I had no peripheral vision loss, and I was walking and I wasn’t cognitively impaired. He said to me, “You’re the poster girl for when things turn out right”.

And the F.A.S.T. acronym definitely worked for me. My husband saved my life. And I had a graded re-entry to work. And then I was back at full time work after 10 months.

I’ve become a StrokeSafe Ambassador, so I give StrokeSafe presentations for the Stroke Foundation. I’ve fundraised for the Stroke Foundation. Also with my family, I walked the 5Ks in the Melbourne Marathon five months post-stroke, and last year, I actually ran the 10Ks, and we raised money for the Stroke Foundation.

I will be forever grateful to my family and friends for their love and support. And I’ll be forever grateful to the nurses, doctors, OTs, speech therapists, and the two ambulance officers.

Don’t give up, be patient with yourself and with your family. They’re only trying to help. If I can get through this, anyone can get through this. So, and don’t give up, yeah.