A story of courage

November 14, 2019

By Rachael

It seemed a typical morning in steamy Jakarta, Indonesia for our family who had moved there in July 2013 for my husband’s work. I could hear my boys upstairs yawning and yelling about who was getting to the bathroom first. The only one I couldn’t hear was our 8 year old daughter who was later than usual in running down the stairs to start breakfast.

Next I knew, my two sons said “Mum, Imogen’s crying upstairs and it doesn’t sound like a good cry”. I thought she’d fallen over or didn’t want to go to school for some reason. As I made my way upstairs, the first thing I noticed is that our daughter was leaning awkwardly between her bedroom and the bathroom, looking disoriented, her right arm hung limply. I tried to reassure her that everything was ok, maybe she had woken up badly or had a nightmare and I took her to my husband who was in the bathroom. It was then I noticed that the right side of her mouth had dropped. I could not believe it and screamed to my husband that she was having a stroke and we had to get her help as soon as possible.

My husband was as stunned as I was and tried to hold the fort down at home while I grabbed Imogen and put her in our car and asked our driver to navigate the mousetrap roads of Jakarta to get us to the local expat clinic near our house.

Imogen had suffered a transient ischemic stroke which impacted the area of the brain responsible for coordination. Her right arm hung loosely by her side, she was slurring when speaking and her right leg and foot were tingly. She seemed confused and her thoughts were jumbled. We were devastated and in shock.

The small clinic we took her to was not well equipped to deal with such an issue in a small child. They barely knew what to do and this was terrifying for us as we knew we had to airlift her to a more capable country where she would get the right treatment. Unfortunately, due to a series of bureaucratic bungles with our international healthcare provider she wasn’t seen to by doctors in Singapore until 18 hours post stroke.

Imogen in hospital

In Singapore, Imogen was given the care and attention she needed and was seen by top specialists who worked with her to regain some movement in her right hand and leg. By the end of the week she had her beautiful smile back again and was able to talk properly again. Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists worked with her daily to help her use her right arm again and we were even visited and treated by an acupuncturist who provided some relief for her.

It’s been six years since Imogen’s stroke and we are back in Australia now. Working through her school routine and playing sports is back on Imogen’s agenda. She has many friends who support and love her. She has never been bullied for her slight disability in her right arm which sometimes means she has it up in the air – as if she’s asking a questions – only to forget she has it there! This is due to the dystonia she has continue to be challenged by which is a direct result of her stroke to the area of her brain which controls movement.

As a family we were so grateful for the love and support from our friends and family during this difficult time, but we are so proud of Imogen and the progress she continues to make. We don’t believe in feeling sorry for our daughter but rather applaud all her achievements and continue to encourage her to do her best every day despite what she has been through. Onward and upward!

Imogen on a swing at rehab