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Interview: Unplanned P...

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Interview: Unplanned Paths

Fri 22 Mar 2024

In autumn last year we joined two remarkable women, Liz Ekeledo and Justina Omotayo, as they celebrated the release of their book, Unplanned Paths: A Stroke of Life.

Unplanned Paths is the story of stroke survivor Liz and her daughter, Justina, which tells the trials and triumphs of two women before and after Liz’s stroke at just 37. The story has a key message at its heart: that a disability is not a limitation to leading a fulfilling life. We caught up with Liz and Justina at the start of 2024 to explore the creative process and see how life has been after the launch.

So, how does it feel to have your stories out in the world?

Justina: “Personally, the experience is a blend of vulnerability and pride. Opening up about personal experiences makes me feel uncomfortably exposed. However, I recognise that these narratives can serve as powerful tools for learning and fostering relatability among a diverse audience.

“Simultaneously, there's an overwhelming sense of pride, especially in witnessing my mum's journey unfold on the pages of our book.”

Liz: “We are profoundly grateful for the support and appreciation our book has received, reaffirming the belief that sharing our stories can foster understanding, empathy, and a sense of shared humanity.”

Can you give us a flavour of what readers can expect from the book?

Justina: “In essence, our book chronicles the journey of Liz and Justina – a mother facing a life-altering stroke in 2004, her subsequent rehabilitation, and the poignant role reversal as Justina, once supported by her mother, becomes the pillar of strength. Readers can anticipate an authentic exploration of our intertwined lives as a mother-daughter duo, navigating the unpredictable waves of highs and lows.”

What made you decide to write it?

Justina: “The idea of documenting her experiences had been floating around for a while, and sensing the potential for a compelling narrative, I made a promise to support my mum in bringing her life to the pages of a book.

“Faced with the unique circumstances brought about by the pandemic, where lockdowns and restrictions led to an unprecedented amount of time spent together, we seized the opportunity to channel our energies into a meaningful project.”

Tell us a bit about the process of writing it. What were the challenges or highlights?

Justina: “For me, the main challenge was navigating the balance between respecting my mum's desire for openness and my inclination towards privacy. While I'm naturally more reserved, my mum was eager to share the intricacies of her life.

“Despite the challenges, the writing journey was punctuated by numerous highlights, including the profound bonding experience with my mother, the collective effort of preserving her legacy, and the realisation that this shared endeavour transcended the boundaries of authorship to become a testament to the strength of familial ties.”

What do you hope other members of the brain injury community will take from the book?

Liz: “My hope for other members of the brain injury community who read our book is that they find a sense of companionship and inspiration. I want them to understand that they are not alone in their journey.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary since the stroke, a milestone I cherish as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Just four hours to live at the time of the stroke; I am immensely grateful for the 20+ years I've been blessed with and hold hope for many more.

“As stroke survivors, we are given a second chance at life, and it is crucial that we seize every moment and make it count. That's precisely what I am doing, and I hope our story inspires others in the brain injury community to embrace their second shot at life with the same vigour and determination.”

You’re very generously donating the proceeds of the book to Headway. How has Headway helped you and your family?

Liz: “The support and sense of community provided by Headway have been invaluable to me and my family. Attending the weekly social meetings at times has been more than just a routine; it's been a lifeline. In that space, people understand my condition, providing a level of empathy and connection that is truly comforting.”

What are your future plans?

Liz: “Championing stroke survivors and their families will continue to be a priority whilst living the very best life I can. I would love to share my story on stage with bigger audiences - watch this space; maybe we'll be able to do a TEDx sometime in the future to amplify the message and inspire more people!”

Justina: “My overarching goal is to leave a positive impact on the world, making it better than I found it and striving to make a difference in any way I can. The journey continues, and I am excited about the opportunities ahead.”

Liz, a lifetime member of Headway, and Justina are kindly donating the proceeds of ‘Unplanned Paths: A Stroke of Life’ to Headway. Their ongoing fundraising efforts have garnered just under £3,000 to date!

Unplanned Paths: A Stroke of Life is on sale now! You can get a copy – or donate - at


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