Stroke is the thief that stole my husbands sight

June 30, 2021

By Lauren Bickley

My husband Shaun, was only 38 when he suffered his first of many strokes on October 5th 2020. A proud, loving, and active dad of two young children, Shaun had never had any health issues prior to his strokes.  In the week leading up to Shaun’s first stroke, he’d had a virus that we presumed he’d caught from the kids, as they were always bringing home coughs and colds from day-care. He shrugged it off and kept about our normal routine, until the weekend when he started to complain of a severe headache and blurry spots in one eye. The pain wasn’t easing with normal paracetamol so we thought a trip to the ER would be a good idea. On admission, they did a CT scan which did not show anything suspicious, and so he was treated as though he had a migraine headache and was discharged. Eating dinner that night he started suffering bad pains in his neck and jaw, but we decided we would see how he was in the morning and go from there.

Shaun woke up blind in his right eye the following morning. We presented back to the ER and were then quickly sent to another hospital as they thought Shaun was suffering an optical condition. At this point they had no idea how bad things were. He was admitted to a new hospital and tests started to be performed. The following day, after an MRI, we learnt that Shaun had suffered an embolic shower, a pulmonary embolism and that his 2 major arteries in his neck supplying blood to his brain were 100% and 75% blocked with clots. Two days later, a code stroke was called as Shaun could not lift his left arm. Two weeks after this, Shaun lost sight in his other eye and suffered full right sided paralysis and aphasia. He had suffered several more strokes that day and were told to prepare for the worst. He was in a very critical condition and the prognosis for his vision was poor.

Shaun spent 6 weeks in the hyper acute stroke ward before they decided he could potentially benefit from rehabilitation. It was a gruelling process, but so worthwhile as Shaun began to walk and talk and regain function again. However, not long after Christmas, while we were in rehab, he suffered another stroke. This time it affected his speech and he suffered with facial droop and right sided neglect. This was devastating and we could not understand why we were going through this again. We went back to the acute stroke ward for another 2 weeks, before finishing out rehab and starting therapy at home. After a total of 5 months in the hospital, the final diagnosis for Shaun’s strokes was a presumed autoimmune condition that triggered a clotting storm in his body.

Shaun in hospital in his wheelchair

8 months on, Shaun although blind, has defied the odds. He is a walking, talking miracle and is learning to walk using a cane. The brain is amazing at re-wiring itself, he still has sensation issues in his right arm, so is learning to do everything left-handed. Aphasia can still make holding a conversation a little tricky.

Our life was changed in an instant. I am sharing our story as we want everyone to be aware that the different signs and symptoms of stroke might not be the most common. Life with our two young children is what keeps Shaun striving to get better. We are lucky to have wonderful family and friends and now carers and therapists who work with us daily, but if we can save someone else from going through what we have had to endure by sharing our story, then our mission is accomplished. We believe there needs to be more education on lowering the risk of stroke and the effects it can have on survivors and their support system.

In Shaun’s case there were no F.A.S.T. signs in the lead up to his stroke. Lauren shares his story with us to raise awareness that not all strokes have the same symptoms. Facial weakness, arm weakness and difficulty with speech are the most common symptoms or signs of stroke, but they are not the only signs. Learn more about the other signs of stroke here.

Shaun walking with his cane