Know the signs - Stroke can happen to anyone

Three New England stroke survivors are sharing their personal stories during Stroke Week (14 - 20 September) to prove anyone, no matter their age or walk of life, can have a stroke.

Joe Miller, Peter Draper and Kayla Brotherson lead very different lives but share something in common – they all experienced strokes but went on to make excellent recoveries because they, their family or friends recognised the signs of stroke early.

Joe Miller

Joe Miller, 59, was at the supermarket when talking became difficult and he felt weakness in one side of his body. He signalled a fellow shopper to call ‘000’. He was taken to Tamworth Hospital Emergency Department and it was found his stroke symptoms were subsiding. Tests revealed he was at risk of a second stroke, so he was admitted to the Acute Stroke Unit for further care. Joe was provided with stroke education and medication to reduce his chances of having another stroke. He’s made a full recovery and continues to work with Hunter New England Health as an Aboriginal Mental Health Coordinator.

Kayla Brotherson

Armidale’s Kayla Brotherson, 17, was at home with her boyfriend and mum in November 2013 when she suddenly experienced speech problems and weakness down the right side of her body. Recognising the signs of stroke, Kayla’s boyfriend raised the alarm and her mother called ‘000’. Paramedics took her directly to Tamworth Hospital Emergency Department for specialist care. After a neurological assessment and a CT Scan she was assessed as being eligible for thrombolysis – a drug infusion to dissolve the blood clot. She was admitted to the Tamworth Acute Stroke Unit for further assessment and rehabilitation and allowed to return home to Armidale a few days later. She received follow-up care from Armidale Stroke Care Coordinator Melissa Gill and the New England Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service. Kayla is now newly engaged and working part time at a local childcare centre.

Peter Draper

Peter Draper, 57, was in the middle of a busy political campaign, running for State Parliament when he suffered the signs and symptoms of a stroke - mild facial droop, problems with his eyesight and changed speech. He was at the Niangala Prawn and Chicken Night in March this year when he told his wife that something was wrong. A nurse and occupational therapist attending the dinner recognised the signs of stroke and called an Ambulance which met them at the bottom of the Port Stephens Cutting. Tamworth Hospital neurologist Dr James Hughes met Peter at the Tamworth Hospital Emergency Department where Peter was deemed eligible for thrombolysis and was given the infusion that opened up the artery in his brain and restored blood flow. Peter made a rapid recovery; he stated that towards the end of the infusion he could feel “everything clicking back into place and becoming normal again”. Peter was admitted to hospital for two days before getting straight back into his campaign.

Tamworth Stroke Care Co-ordinator Rachel Peake said their stories prove how important it is for everyone to learn the signs of stroke.

“The effect of a stroke can be vast and may affect a person’s ability to move, think, speak, swallow or to see the world around them,” Ms Peake said.

“Severe stroke can result in death or major physical or mental disability.

“It’s important to act FAST in an emergency – this stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time which are the clearest signs someone is having a stroke.”

  • Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms – Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time – Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call ‘000’ now.

“The good news is that many stroke patients can receive life-saving treatment if they make it to hospital quickly,” Ms Peake said.

“Recognising the signs of a stroke early provides greater opportunity for patients to receive Thrombolysis - a ‘clot-busting’ drug that dissolves the blood clot and slows damage to the brain.

“Thrombolysis can restore blood supply to the brain, saving lives and reducing the level of disability, but it doesn’t work for all strokes,” Ms Peake said.

“Thrombolysis must be delivered within 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke, pending assessment of CT scans and expert review by a neurologist.”

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