I discovered powerlifting after my stroke

August 15, 2019

By Charlotte Porter

Sometimes life takes an unexpected twist and nothing could be truer than that for me.  

In the lead up to Christmas last year, I was busy juggling a family and two jobs. Like many mums at that time of year, there was a lot to do and not enough hours in the day. 

I woke up one morning with a really bad headache. I’ve had my fair share of headaches in recent years after having a pituitary gland tumour, but this one was intense. I remember telling my husband about it, but I couldn’t afford to take the day off work, so I pushed myself to get dressed and get out the door. 

I work in disability services and spent the morning with two separate clients. When my shift finished at 12.30pm, I sat in my car and couldn’t move. After a few minutes, I somehow managed to drive to our local Aboriginal Medical Service where, thankfully, I got to see the doctor straight away. 

I recall the doctor saying hello and asking me to come in her office, but I couldn’t lift myself out of my seat. The doctor walked towards me and asked if I was okay 

"No, I can't move. I'm so sorry. I feel awful and I have a huge headache,” I replied.

The doctor asked me to lift my arm, but I couldn't and the left side of my face was slightly droopy. She told me I needed to get to hospital immediately. 

I live in country New South Wales. I went to my local hospital, but I was rushed to a larger one within half an hour of arrival. 

A brain scan showed a small aneurism in the back of my head, which had a leak. It was too small to be clamped, so I was given a drug to reduce the pressure in my head. 

Two days later, I was discharged. 

This is when my major challenges began - I lost all of my strength in my arm. I was slightly overweight, so had to change my diet. I had to let go of my stress and I was tired.  

I had 16 weeks of bed rest before starting light gym work and physio. 

At the beginning I struggled. I had to learn how to do everyday tasks again like holding a spoon and fork and lifting my arm. I didn’t want to be a burden on my family. 

There were lots of tears, but there were plenty of laughs and accomplishments as well. Some days I was so lethargic, but others I felt good enough to go to the gym. I learnt to read my body much better. 

I wanted to be a good role model for my children, so I set goals every day. At one stage it was to walk to the toilet by myself now it's to deadlift 200 kilograms (equivalent to two fridges!) by the end of the year! 

This brings me to powerlifting. I made a huge effort to go to the gym regularly to work on my fitness, coordination and strength. I kept pushing through the pain to regain the capacity in my arm. My doctor said I was bouncing back quicker than expected. 

I always knew I was a strong person, but then I discovered powerlifting by chance on social media. I started following the account of a woman with mad skills and I was inspired. With the help of a personal trainer, I tried it myself and LOVED it!

Now, I train up to five times a week. 

Together with my family, powerlifting has given me something positive to focus on after my stroke. 

I am 32 and there is no looking back.

Charlotte at a dead lifting competition