It is a common misconception that a stroke is something that only happens to older people. But Katherine McKinstry knows better than anyone this isn’t the case. At just 31-years-old Katherine found herself experiencing the devastating effects of a stroke.
Prior to her stroke, life for Katherine was going great. Residing in Lincoln with her husband and two young sons, Katherine had a fast-paced job at a local hospital and an active social life. By her own admission, Katherine says she was a regular party goer and loved a glass or two of wine. “I was pretty much the life and soul of a party,” she says.
In July 2018 Katherine and her husband had been at a friend’s wedding party. The morning after, Katherine woke up with a headache.
“I didn’t really think much of it and put it down to a late night and a late journey home,” says Katherine.
However, as the day progressed Katherine’s headache worsened.
Katherine recalls: “I remember texting my husband to say my headache was getting worse and that I thought it was a migraine.
“I started getting a flashing in one of my eyes and all of a sudden I remember being really hot and throwing up.”
The next thing Katherine remembers is waking up in Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre following emergency surgery to stop a bleed on her brain.
“It wasn’t until a few days after that I was told the extent of what had happened,” says Katherine.
Katherine was told that she had experienced an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) rupture which had caused a large bleed to the right side of her brain, leading to a stroke.
“I had full left-sided weakness and had lost a lot of vision,” explains Katherine.
“I remember the consultant coming round and explaining what had happened and what the next steps were going to be.
“My husband and my two sisters were next to my bed and we all cried.”
Katherine stayed in hospital for a week before having the option of transferring to a rehab ward or continuing her recovery at home. She opted for the latter.
“I cried on the journey home from the hospital,” says Katherine. “When I got into the car I struggled to shut the car door because changes to my vision meant the car door handle wasn’t where my hand went.
“I was worried I had left too soon and that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the medication and the adjustments that were needed.”
Over a year later, Katherine’s eyesight is a lasting reminder of her stroke.
“I am now partially sighted,” explains Katherine. “I lost the left-hand sight in both my eyes – called hemianopsia.
“This has been the hardest thing I’ve had to adjust to. You don’t realise how much you take your eyesight for granted.”
But Katherine remains positive and credits her excellent support network of friends and family, as well as the support of Headway.
“I’m very lucky to have a good network of family and friends around me,” she says. “They helped me a lot through the first few months of my recovery.”
Katherine’s occupational therapist directed her to Headway.
I have found the helpline and the HealthUnlocked forum to be a great help. It’s nice to chat to other young stroke survivors, hear positive stories and celebrate each other’s achievements.
When asked if she had any advice for other brain injury survivors, Katherine says: “sleep when you can, cry when you want to cry and talk about it even if it makes you cry more. It’s good to let it all out and you will be surprised by how many other people feel just the same as you do.
I’ve learnt there truly is life after stroke!
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