My Story

My name is Alana Hitchcock and I am 25 years old and currently 34 weeks pregnant. I work in Childcare as a lead educator and have had a fairly healthy life so far, without any serious medical issues. On the 18th of July I found out I had suffered a stroke.

The day was pretty typical and I did nothing out of the ordinary, grocery shopping and visiting friends.

I was standing around chatting when I felt a sudden wave of faintness (I have experienced this before as I have fainted a few times in my 25 years), I thought maybe I was dehydrated and started to have some water.

During this time I noticed my vision went a little funny, it was hard to focus and I had an altered sense of feeling in my left side almost like pins and needles. This lasted for about half an hour and settled down. Surprisingly the first thing I said was “OMG am I having a stroke?”.

In my family I am known as a bit of a worrywart, so like normal everyone tried to calm me down. We all just put it down to one of those wonderful things you experience during pregnancy. I continued on with my day and didn’t really think anything more of it… well apart from the fact that I had a lingering headache but that was nothing panadol couldn’t handle.

The next day was like any other, in fact it was very relaxing. I spent the afternoon watching TV. It was then I noticed my vision was becoming strange, I could see swirls and two televisions, and I also had no peripheral vision on my left side.

My husband and I started to worry so I called 13HEALTH and they advised me to go straight to the Emergency Department. It was then that my left side started tingling and I felt extremely sensitive in my left arm, leg and face.

We went straight to Accident and Emergency, where I was checked along with my baby.

From here I went to a General Ward, then when a spot become available in the stroke ward I went there to be looked after by Dr Wong and his friendly team.

While at the hospital I had so many tests, which I am thankful for, I felt like I got a full body check. Some of the tests I can remember were a CT Scan (I remember this because I was a little worried about it as there can be risks to the baby, but I realise the doctors know exactly what they are doing!), I had many blood tests, a heart ultrasound and 2 MRIs.

Unfortunately the wonderful doctors couldn’t find the cause. I am still undergoing tests and have regular visits with my neurologist Dr Wong, just recently I have had another MRI and I am booked in for an Electroencephhalogram (this is a non invasive recording of the electrical activity of the brain) and am waiting for these results.

It is hard not knowing how it happen, It would be nice if there was something more I could do to prevent another one aside from taking aspirin.

A few days after I had been discharged from hospital I had tingling in my left hand in particular my middle finger, ring finger and little finger. Slowly the tingling moved up to my elbow. This lasted ten minutes then went away and came back, this happened about three times over a 45 min period. I went back to hospital and found out I had a post stroke seizure.

Because I had a post stroke seizure I am now unable to drive for six months and cannot be left alone with the children at my work for six months. My work has been very accommodating and has managed to change my shifts, so I won’t be put in this position.

Trying to make sense of something I knew nothing about

When I was first admitted to hospital all I could do was to worry about whether or not my baby was ok; it was the only thing I could think about.

When I found out I had a stroke the first thing I thought was “this isn’t something that happens to a 25 year old”, I honestly didn’t know you could have a stroke without any permanent affects, I spent the next night consumed with worry; will I wake up tomorrow unable to speak, go to the toilet, or be paralysed? The thought of maybe not being able to speak to or hold my baby was so upsetting, I would have to say it was probably the worst night of my life.

The doctors were all so lovely and caring, they answered any questions I had, although I really didn’t know what questions to ask, because like many other people I just didn’t know you could have a stroke so young and I knew nothing about them.

This is something I have noticed many other people are unaware of. I feel that many people find it hard to believe that I had a stroke as I have been very lucky and show no signs of having a stroke and seem to have no permanent effects.

How my stroke has affected me

The biggest effect the stroke has had is that I am paranoid of any unusual feeling I have and get very frightened because I don’t know if what I am feeling is related to pregnancy or an affect of having a stroke. It is also hard to undergo so many tests while pregnant, as all I do is worry about the risks to my baby.

Challenging and changing perceptions

I don’t believe people understand that you can suffer a stroke and end up with little after effects, and this lack of awareness has caused me some upset.

One of the things I have found the hardest is people who are only trying to be helpful seem to look out for any perceived signs of stroke side effects. For example, when I forget where I put my phone, they like to ask me if it is because I had a stroke.

I try to remind people that I was just as forgetful before although it is still upsetting and it is something I don’t need to be constantly reminded about.

I think the fact that people are paying more attention makes me feel very paranoid and scared to make mistakes.

A reflection

Although it was a very scary and unsettling thing to happen, I am thankful I had a second lot of symptoms, for this is what led me to attend hospital and to find out I had a stroke.

Having this stroke has really made me appreciate my life and the people in it.

Although I am scared it might happen again and have a more permanent affect, it has just helped me to enjoy my life and change the things I am not happy with, because life is too short.

Raising awareness is key

It would be nice to see more people understand what a stroke looks like and what can happen and that it is not just something that happens to old people.

Places like this website will help change this situation. I feel if more people are aware by hearing my experience and maybe it might just help someone.

I am now looking forward to the future. I have just started my maternity leave and I can’t wait to have my baby and enjoy my new little family. J

Alana Hitchcock
October 2016

Do you have a health story to tell? Email realhealthmatters@qut.edu.au.