My Stroke Story By Michelle Stiglic

October 04, 2021

On August 11, 2020, Victoria was in lockdown. I woke with a headache for the third day in a row. I had thought it was sinus related and I just didn’t feel well. After taking some painkillers I went back to bed.  When I woke, I made some toast and a cup of tea and as I looked around, I noticed everything I looked at had barcodes on them (I thought to myself this is cool), not registering that something was wrong. Turns out I was suffering aura, a set of symptoms linked to a migraine.

I went outside to see what my husband Tony, was doing as he was off work that day. I turned to walk inside...that’s all I remember.

What happened next is what Tony describes as what happened. 

I turned and mumbled something, twitched, and then collapsed on a gas bottle. (My back landing on the gas bottle). I fell onto the concrete having a seizure, then became very stiff. Tony called the ambulance.  As they arrived, I came to and said my back was sore.  I was rushed by ambulance to Dandenong Hospital.

I don’t remember much immediately after. I remember waking up when I was about to be give a special dye called contrast, for a CT scan (I am allergic to this).  The next thing I remember is waking up and hearing sirens when I was in my second ambulance on the way to Monash Medical Centre at Clayton. Due to lockdown, Tony wasn’t permitted to travel in the ambulance with me or come to the hospital.  He was only notified that I had been transferred to another hospital when he received a call to collect my jewellery from Dandenong Hospital. 

I spent a week in hospital and was told I had suffered a stroke. After an MRI was conducted, they established I had sustained seven fractures of the spine due to my fall. It wasn’t until I got home that I really understood the full extent of how the stroke had affected me. I thought I was fine; however, the stroke had affected the left side of my body and I had no one who knew me to point out any changes. After the week, I was able to go home.  I returned with completely matted hair, so Tony had to clipper my hair – I now rock a pixie cut (everything happens for a reason 😊).  

Michelle in her hospital bed

Michelle 4 days after her stroke – 15 August 2020

When I returned home my initial rehabilitation was via Telehealth.  This included consults with a physio, a neuro psychology, occupational therapist, social worker, psychologist, medical specialists, the continence clinic, and the fatigue clinic.  At the start it was terrifying doing physio at home alone.  As my broken back healed- I discovered more of what the stroke had affected including fatigue, weakness on my left side, and some issues with bright lights and noises.  Telehealth appointments had their pros and cons; on the plus side I became comfortable in my bubble at home while I recovered, and the consultants were helpful with my rehabilitation. On the downside, I became very anxious about leaving the house.  Thankfully with the support of Tony, he helped me to push through these feelings and leave the house.

Prior to my stroke, I worked full time as a senior store manager for mattress manufacturer and worked a lot.  I would have to say that I was not as fit and healthy as I had been previously.  You can see in the photos of me before my stroke that I was not in a healthy place. Since the stroke my life has changed completely.  I have worked very hard on my health and am pleased to say that I am healthier than I have ever been. I have lost over 15 kgs, am exercising regularly and keep myself active through gardening, concreting and crafts. I have found these activities help me with my coordination and help me to use my brain in different ways. This huge wakeup call I have had, has made me realise that I am able to put myself first and not to sweat the small stuff and try and please everyone to the detriment of my own well-being. 

As a perfectionist means I have been my own worst enemy, but it has also meant that I am stubborn and very determined to get well. I have good and bad days. my depth perception can be an issue at times, so I am extra careful when walking downstairs or walking in aisles with people. My amazing memory is not the same, but I have learnt to write everything down! 

With memory issues and fatigue and am slowly finding ways to get used to being around people again. I know I will get stronger.  As part of my recovery, I took part in ‘Stride 4 Stroke’ was able to raise $2,000 which I’m very proud of.  I will be participating again this year as it was a huge part of my rehabilitation last year. I have also gone back to work where my workplace has given me a new role where I am able to tap into my creativity and positive energy to help others.

I am thankful for my second chance, and I am making the most of it. I can still achieve I just have to work out different ways of doing it.

Michele in her garden smiling

Michelle now- 28 August 2021