Hannah McGrath, a 27 year old stroke survivor from Urmston, is supporting the Stroke Association’s ‘I am more than my stroke’ Christmas appeal.
Hannah was working night shifts as a nurse on the Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, when she had a life changing stroke and found herself on the receiving end of hospital care.
In April 2015 Hannah was at home alone, when she felt an intense pain in the back of her head. She said: “The pain was so bad I thought I was going to be sick. I tried to sleep it off thinking I was having a bad migraine, but I couldn’t rest. My housemate came home a few hours later and I burst into tears. I honestly thought I was going to die.”
It wasn’t until later that week when Hannah had lost the use of her left hand and arm while at work as a nurse that she went to A&E. She thought she had trapped a nerve but an MRI showed that she had two blood clots on her brain and that the two ‘episodes’ had actually been strokes.
Doctors found that she had a hole in her heart which had allowed the blood clots to reach her brain. After occupational therapy for her left hand, Hannah was discharged with medication. She will have to take medication to prevent blood clots forming for the rest of her life.
Hannah said: “I really struggled with anxiety and fatigue and didn’t feel well enough to continue as a nurse, so I moved back in with my mum. Fortunately I haven’t had any long term physical issues. My left hand got stronger after occupational therapy and although I wouldn’t trust it to hold a cup of tea, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything I did before. My balance and coordination were affected the most.
“The biggest hit of the strokes were how they affected me emotionally. Something I can’t even comprehend now, was that I was 23 years old, fit and healthy. I’d just booked a one way ticket to travel the world with my friend, Fran. This wasn’t in my plan.
“After nearly a year of feeling sorry for myself I started to get my life back on track and I feel so fortunate to be here. Despite this, I am worried about my future and having another stroke with lasting effects.”
After a few months’ rest Hannah began a job in a pub as a waitress to build her confidence. She is now working full time again, nursing in Manchester.
She added: “I know first-hand that stroke can turn your life upside down in an instant and change it forever. But despite what I’ve been through, I am more than my stroke, I’m still me and I can still live my life.”
There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year. Stroke continues to be a leading cause of disability and over 80 per cent of stroke survivors require help with daily living such as walking, washing, eating and communicating. The ‘I am more than my stroke’ Christmas appeal is seeking to raise money for the Stroke Association so that they can continue to help more stroke survivors with their recovery.
Chris Larkin, Regional Director at the Stroke Association said: “For many stroke survivors, rebuilding their lives after stroke is a long and challenging process. Stroke not only presents physical challenges, but the way it suddenly changes people’s lives and their plans for their future can also cause feelings of depression, anxiety and despair. However, we have seen that with the right support many people can be helped to live fulfilling lives following their stroke.
“As the UK’s only charity dedicated to supporting those affected by stroke, we help to address the emotional, practical and physical needs of stroke survivors and their families so they can achieve the best possible quality of life. However, we aren’t yet able to reach everyone who needs our help and that’s why our Christmas Appeal, ‘I am more than my stroke’ is raising essential funds so that we can be there for more people like Hannah.”
To find out more about the help and support the Stroke Association offers and to make a donation to its Christmas Appeal visit stroke.org.uk/iammore.