“My name is Rebecca Merritt and I am 34 years old. On the 13th June 2017 I suffered a stroke. I had been to work as normal and was at home for a quick shower and thinking about cutting the grass and making tea.
My mum called round and as she was leaving (which i now believe was a complete twist of fate) she turned and asked me one more thing. I went to answer but couldn’t speak! It felt like something had locked in my face and jaw. I lost all thought and within seconds I had collapsed as my right-side leg and arm had gone weak.
I remember being on the floor, still trying to speak. When I got up onto a chair I knew something wasn’t right. I needed to look in a mirror as my face didn’t feel right. My face on the right side had drooped. I am a mother to two children who were due home from school. I told them I had been a bit dizzy and went with my mum to my doctor’s surgery. The doctor saw me straight away and insisted immediately on an ambulance to hospital. My blood pressure was hypertensive (189/135). I don’t remember too much from my time in hospital, but I had a CT scan which didn’t show anything. Then I had an MRI scan which showed part of my brain left side was permanently damaged. The consultant came to tell me which left me completely in shock as I was told by the ambulance paramedics that it was “probably a bit of anxiety at your age”, and told by staff in hospital that it may have been a TIA (mini stroke).
I could go home with medication to take for the rest of my life & heart investigation tests were booked. I went on to be admitted twice more to hospital when my blood pressure was too high but also dropping dangerously low. Again, as I was in severe pain (suspected blood clot on my lung) due to spasticity, a condition after having a stroke where your muscles contract and don’t stop. I had nearly three months off work and now nearly six months on I am back and on full duties. I underwent all heart tests and nothing was found apart from a very small hole in my heart. My consultant did not think this caused my stroke. He said it was caused by the combined oral contraceptive pill. I had taken this medication for just one week prior to my stroke and unaware to me it had thickened my blood that much that it had caused a clot which had travelled to my brain.
I really struggled with letting anybody see me when I’d had the stroke because I almost felt like a fraud. I was walking about, talking, eating and as far as anybody could see I was fine. Doctors asked me over and over if I had been having headaches but I hadn’t.
The frustrating thing I’ve learnt is about having a stroke is that it isn’t like a broken arm that you can see. There isn’t a bandage to see on the part of your brain that has died and if, like me, you make an almost full recovery, people might probably never know. I will be honest in my story and say I sat in the hospital and Googled “a stroke”. My consultant told me that since I didn’t smoke or wasn’t overweight my body had being able to massively compensate for what the right side went through. I was left weak and I still attend physio now to build my strength up as my job is physical. My balance and speech are almost back to normal.
It took me three weeks from coming out of hospital to be able to comfortably watch the TV or listen to the radio, as I felt like it was talking at me and was too much to process. All this put massive stress on my relationships with family and friends, but I am a very determined & strong woman, so if I could get up and do, then that’s what I did. I could have easily on some days just sat and cried and felt sorry for myself, but I felt so lucky to be alive that I could not be beaten. I live in fear everyday of having another stroke and not being so lucky.
I hope my story can raise awareness that every stroke and each person’s recovery can be different. Warning signs are not always there. You will never be the same person, as you were before your stroke, but if you have any strength and fight in you, I believe you must use that to try move forward and be grateful for the life you still have. I would like in the future to also raise awareness of the dangers in taking the combined pill and I am now on the mini-pill which does not have the same risks.”
This Christmas we want to raise awareness that stroke can happen at any age, we also want to share the impact that sharing experiences has on the lives of younger stroke survivors like Isabel and her family. We provide services that put people in contact to share these experiences reducing isolation and benefiting all parties. Now we need your help! 2018 will be a big year for Different Strokes, as we embark on new projects to provide specialist support and resources for specific ages. We are also aiming to increase the number of local support groups around the country.
What can we raise in 12 days to support this work?
If you can donate this Christmas your gift will be part of something special, something transformational, something life changing to enable a younger stroke survivors and their family members to reclaim their lives.
We know this time of year puts a lot of pressure on everyone financially and if you are unable to help in this way then please help us by sharing our campaign on social media:
2017-12-14T12:35:43+00:00 December 14th, 2017|Comments Off on Rebecca’s Story