My name is Tracy Emerson-Smith and I am 50 and single, living in Birmingham. I had my thalamic stroke six weeks after my 50th birthday in April this year
I guess on reflection the warning signs were there… I have worked in the homeless sector for the last 25 years and it has been more than a job. I manage a group of managers- who manage homeless services for vulnerable adults. It is a tough but an absolutely rewarding job. I am the eldest daughter of two and have a beautiful 28-year-old son. I would confidently say after the death of my mum when I was just 9 years old, that I was head of my family. This responsibility then increased when my Dad was diagnosed aged 66 with early onset dementia
Following years of working way too hard I had developed some awful lifestyle habits: I smoked, loved my bourbon, ate terrible food, and developed type 2 diabetes. I was literally burning the candle at both ends- working, caring for my Dad, and partying and at time of stroke I had started dating. I was so excited in midst of the madness that was my life – I was going to be a grandma for first time.
The scene is set and here I was a week before my 50th Birthday and I received the call, a call which I think was catalyst for increased stress. The stress alongside all the other factors which led to my stroke. My son called me on to tell me his partner had gone into premature labour; their son, my first Grandson had been stillborn
Six weeks later following a busy bank holiday, I was home alone. I felt like I was shaking inside, like something had snapped. I Googled my symptoms and I believed I was having a hypo – I made myself a sandwich and I fell asleep on sofa. The next morning, I tried to get up and my left leg felt like an elastic band and I couldn’t raise my arm. I phoned my best friend and whilst slurring my words joked that if I didn’t know better I would think that I had had a stroke. I was taken by ambulance and admitted to stroke ward – my MRI confirmed I had a bleed on right side of my brain
Six months later I haven’t returned to work, I no longer smoke and drink very rarely. I have lost 12 kg so far and I have finally learnt to ask for and accept help. I am about to start community rehab program at Moor Green Brain Injury Clinic. The main impact has been my balance on my left side (wonky 😊), the chronic fatigue which is an ongoing battle and an overwhelming feeling of loss of the person I was pre-stroke
I could have remained lost in my own self-pity had I not have discovered the Different Strokes family. The Facebook group has been my best friend, my confidante, my champion, my reality check, my Saturday night out, my personal advisor and my second family. My sister who has been my absolute rock has also gained insight and support from the group in helping her to support and understand my journey.
I do plan to return to work but not sure what that looks like yet. I also hope to re-do my 50th year celebrations with those who travelled this journey alongside me, but it will be as the person I am now- I do not want to return to the life that lead me here.