First person account of haemorrhagic stroke: ‘it was clear something was wrong’

Written by Gwynneth Clay on 16 May 2017 in Comment

ASSOCIATE FEATURE: When Gwynneth Clay suffered a stroke, she found that very little is known about the type of stroke she suffered

Stroke survivor Gwynneth Clay with her dogs - Image credit: British Heart Foundation

On the 9 May 2016, I was having a normal day. Like most weeks, I went to the Ratho climbing wall.

I was tackling a difficult climbing route and was about 20 feet up the wall when I started to struggle.

I thought I must be climbing badly, so asked my climbing partner to lower me down to the ground.

It was the moment my feet touched the ground that it was clear something was wrong.


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My left leg gave way completely and I couldn’t walk.

I don’t remember, but apparently it wasn’t a minute after this that I said, “What if I’m having a stroke?”

After the ambulance crew did the F.A.S.T test I was taken to hospital for a CT scan. It was then that I was diagnosed with having suffered a haemorrhagic stroke.

A haemorrhagic stroke is when the blood supply to your brain is cut off. This happens when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds, or haemorrhages, into your brain.

I was so scared. I kept thinking, “I’m 53, a single mum, physically active. How can this be happening?”

The next morning two research nurses talked to me about my care and introduced me to Professor Rustam Salman’s research at the University of Edinburgh, giving me a range of leaflets.

They asked whether I would be willing to take part in a research project investigating the cause of my type of stroke.

Professor Salman’s trial focuses on looking to understand the causes of stroke by carrying out a more detailed brain scan and a blood test.

Being part of something like this helps Professor Salman’s team collect important data which could reveal new ways of preventing or treating haemorrhagic stroke.

Having spent most of my working life in the field of human healthcare, and through my own experience now as a stroke survivor, I know how little is known about haemorrhagic stroke.

I’m now part of three studies. Two of the studies are looking at how stroke impacts anxiety and activity levels, and the third is looking at new brain and retinal (eye) scanning techniques.

I’ve been building up my work and am about to start full time again.

I’m also getting fitter and stronger and am back to walking, cycling and swimming (and even some climbing), but I know it’s important to get the balance right.

In day to day life I can do most things, although my left arm and hand can be an issue.

We all drop our phones occasionally, but my left hand does it with monotonous regularity without my knowledge!

I’m now able to ignore the numbness, pins and needles, and extreme cold in my left side, but find them irritating to distressing at times.

Getting my life back feels so important, but it’s going to take some time adjusting to my ‘new normal’.

With limited knowledge on the causes of or ways to prevent haemorrhagic stroke, and extremely limited options for improving outcome, research and clinical trials are vital.

This stuff is really important.

www.bhf.org.uk/research

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