A 26-year-old woman was left paralysed and only able to move her eyes after a free massage at work.
Asha Prasad was 26 when she landed a job in marketing and moved from her home in New Zealand to Sydney.
Happily single, living in a new city and at the start of her career, she felt like she was living the dream. But it turned into a nightmare when a blood vessel was ruptured in her neck during a massage, triggering a stroke and she was given a week to live.
‘Every other Thursday, my work provided a free massage,’ Asha, now 36, said. ‘That day, it felt a bit harder than usual and that weekend I felt dizzy and vomited.’
On the Monday night, Asha fell asleep on the couch, but when she woke the following morning, she couldn’t move.
‘When I tried to shout, no sound came out,’ she recalls. ‘All I could do was blink! I was terrified. The clock showed 6am. Soon it was 7am, then 8am… My mind raced but my body remained paralysed. At 9am, my flat mate finally came in. I tried to scream at her to help me. Instead, I must’ve been staring blankly.
‘I could see her getting frustrated, then watched as her face turned to panic.’
At the hospital, Asha’s father, John, broke the news that she had locked-in syndrome - a rare neurological disorder where a patient is aware but can’t move anything except their eyes.
‘A prisoner in my own body, the days were dark and lonely,’ Asha said. ‘I was grieving for my able self and all the things I’d never do again.’
Defying doctors, Asha was able to breathe on her own after a few weeks. And when she moved her head, she started rehab.
After being transferred back to New Zealand to be near her family, she regained more movement and was able to use a wheelchair.
Two years on, Asha was allowed home. With continued support, she managed to take 20 steps. Now, she can brush her teeth, feed herself and apply makeup.
In a devastating blow, her workplace insurer decided to find a cheaper rehab option.
‘I soon lost my strength and range of movements,’ Asha said. ‘My posture worsened and my lower back became sore.’
She is now fundraising to continue her intensive treatment.
'Ten years on from the stroke, it’s still a shock every morning when I wake up and realise I’m paralysed,’ she said. ‘But I refuse to look back. I’ve lost so much, but I’ve also achieved goals, met inspiring people, and had amazing experiences. I’m not giving up.’
To donate, go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/rehab4asha