Health Stories

I had a stroke at 31

People thought she was just drunk.

When Erin went to brush her teeth, it was the start of a nightmare.

– Erin Adams, from Kellyville, 34, NSW, tells the story in her own words.

What’s wrong with you?’ my husband, Liam, 31, said. His eyes were wide with alarm.Just minutes earlier, we’d been enjoying a quiet Sunday night.I’d decided to turn on the TV in the bedroom and leave Liam watching his show.

On my way, I’d gone to brush my teeth. Somehow, when I picked up my toothbrush, I’d missed my mouth, smearing toothpaste across my cheek. Dazed, I headed to the bedroom. When I reached for the remote, I couldn’t grasp it. Panicked, I tried to turn on the light.

Dazed, I headed to the bedroom. When I reached for the remote, I couldn’t grasp it. Panicked, I tried to turn on the light. Again I missed. My right arm isn’t working, I realised, scared. Until then, I’d been fit and healthy. I went to my brother Charles’ gym every day and ate well. What on earth was wrong with me?

I went to find Liam in the lounge. Standing there, with toothpaste on my face, I tried to speak but I could only mutter nonsense and grunt.He called an ambulance, but when the paramedics arrived they heard my slurred voice and thought I was drunk. ‘She hasn’t been drinking,’ Liam protested, demanding they take me to the hospital.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, I was still slurring and couldn’t move my right arm at all. To our astonishment, a nurse told me my symptoms were psychological. Then, they said they thought I was a victim of domestic violence. ‘That’s not true, my wife needs help now!’ Liam cried. Then, the

Then, the right hand side of my face began to drop. It was a tell-tale sign of stroke. Because it’s rare for a young person to suffer a stroke, staff hadn’t made the connection between my symptoms. I was raced by ambulance to Westmead Hospital where I was given medication just in time to thin my blood before permanent damage was done.

Within an hour, my arm was working and I could speak again. Though my face muscles later bounced back to normal, parts of my face are still numb and my arm isn’t quite the same. Doctors found a hole in my heart, which they suspect caused my stroke. I’d need surgery to close it. The diagnosis was a shock, but also brought heartache.

plug in heart
The stent they put in to block the hole in my heart. (Credit: Supplied)

Liam and I had longed to be parents since we married in 2009.We’d gone through failed IVF cycles and suffered a devastating miscarriage. ‘You have less than two per cent chance of having a baby,’ the specialist told me.

Now, our dream of being parents seemed even less likely and, with worries about my health, we abandoned the idea of more IVF. Then, two months after my stroke, a miracle happened.Discovering my period was late, I took a pregnancy test.To my amazement it was positive. Liam and I were over the moon. I’d been due to have surgery to fix my heart, but surgeons agreed to wait until after my bub arrived.

On April 17, 2015, our daughter, Grace, was born. After having the surgery, I fell pregnant again and our second baby is due on Christmas Day. I feel extremely lucky.

Erin, Grace and Liam. (Credit: Supplied)

Now, I want people to realise that not everyone who has a stroke is elderly. So, I speak regularly at health forums to raise awareness among medical staff about strokes. After all, if can happen to me at 31, it can happen to anyone.

For more, pick up this week’s copy of that’s life! – on sale now.

(Credit: that’s life!)

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