Elaine Jones from Hillsborough disproves the common belief that stroke is something that happens to older people.
She was just 34 when a stroke robbed her of the power in the left side of her body, as well as the ability to see anything on the left hand side of her line of vision. That was in January 2013. The whole experience was such a shock for her mum that she suffered a TIA (mini stroke) and both ended up in the same hospital. But although her mother was discharged after two days, Elaine would have to endure five and a half months in the Lagan Valley and Royal Victoria hospitals.
Because she already suffered from the inflammatory digestive tract disorder Chrohn’s Disease, Elaine found physical rehabilitation exercises extremely difficult. By the time she was about to be discharged, she still could not walk. Then, her Chrohn’s worsened and her bowel perforated. She was in an intensive care unit for 22 days after emergency surgery.
“Finally,” Elaine says, “I was brought home on a stretcher and transferred to bed, still unable to walk. The medical view was that I wouldn’t get any better. I think I was seen as a lost cause.”
Isobel Millhench, Stroke Family Co–ordinator with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, encouraged her to get a referral to Musgrave Park Hospital for further therapy. When Elaine first went, she could not sit upright. She can now walk short distances unaided and longer distances using a stick, but her left arm is still immobile and her left side vision has not returned.
“I would definitely recommend that anyone who suffers a stroke should talk to NI Chest Heart & Stroke,” says Elaine. “Stroke Family Support helped me understand what had happened and that stroke can affect a young person differently from an older person. It also recognises that everybody in the family is affected by stroke. Attending the charity’s Stroke Scheme group in Laurencetown also helped, because it allowed me to talk to others who were going through the same thing.”
Amazingly, Elaine is now planning to do a sponsored walk for NI Chest Heart & Stroke in 2015. That’s a remarkable achievement for someone who was not expected to walk at all.
“I’m doing it to say thanks,” she says, “for all the benefits the charity has helped bring about for me.”
Find out more about the stroke support that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offers.