THIS week is National Stroke Week, and we now have a local ambassador for the cause, helping raise funds to fight what is Australia’s second biggest killer.
Former Bombala High student and local girl, Kaddie Alcock shares her incredible story here -
“October 28, 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 my life was about to change forever.
The following morning I was awoken by a very early phone call. I went to put my jumper on and had a lot of trouble putting my arms through the holes; assuming I must have slept on my arm I didn't think anything of it.
Later that morning I couldn't open the door to get out of my car. After realising I was still in the car, the person I was with came back and opened the driver’s door, asking "kad what are you doing?”. I managed to get out and as it was still very early, 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 phased 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?". 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, that’s as far as I made it. I could no longer control the right side of my body or speak anything that resembled English.
Initially it was thought I had overdosed on drugs, but as I have never taken drugs, smoked and very rarely drink, I just kept shaking my head over and over.
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 it was thought I was suffering a server migraine.
The time I spent in hospital following this initial 'episode' included my birthday, so I received a lot of gifts and had a lot of visitors. I was in two minds about visitors and rather confused. I think everyone that visited must have had similar thoughts.
I wasn't worried, I knew whatever 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 knew what I was saying and my movements were normal but that was not what everyone else was seeing and hearing.
I remember in a room of visitors, I was talking and talking but no one 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.
The first visit to a neurologist in Sydney 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 quite possibly have been a stroke. I was taken off the pill as it’s likely to have been a contributing factor, and more blood tests, an 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 stroke. The cardiologist performed a TOE (heart ultrasound), which showed abnormalities. 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 meant that I would need to take an anticoagulant to thin my blood. This began Christmas eve 2009.
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 on.
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.
February 7, 2011, I had my second stroke. I was feeling 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 sending were not understandable words, just a whole bunch of letters. Calling to check my speech they knew something was definitely wrong.
Another MRI confirmed it, yes that was another stroke. Two weeks later I got a call informing me I was scheduled for surgery the following morning. 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 4.30am 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, I’m prone to having stress induced seizures as a result of this.
My follow up cardiology appointments and further 3D TOEs uncovered I have another AVM which will need closing and I will continue to have investigations and be closely monitored.
Despite all this I have recently returned to full time work in banking and continue to be my stubborn self and attempt to do everything I would have before all this.
Having people judge me, either unaware or not, without completely understanding how having had two strokes affects you is difficult.
Memory, coordination, speech, paralysis, difficulty walking, swallowing, inability to locate pain and discern between hot and cold, loss of emotional control are all just things I have had to come to terms with.
My story is just one of many. Please help me raise awareness for this cause and raise funds for stoke prevention, research, stroke units, rehabilitation and out patient care.
If any business or individual would like to be involved or help organise fundraising events please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.