How hairdressing helped me in my recovery

March 26, 2020

By Brooke

I’ve always loved hairdressing, I love a good chat and the chance to brighten up someone’s day with a fresh haircut, but I never expected this passion would help me recover from a neurological scare. 

In March 2019, it was a normal day working at my hair salon. I’d been feeling tired for a few days, but didn’t think too much of it as I’d been under a lot of stress in my personal life.  I was colouring a client’s hair when I started to feel strange. It felt like I was spacing out as well as experiencing pins and needles down the right side of my body. I kept looking towards the clock. It felt like time was moving slowly when it wasn’t at all.

I got half way through the appointment when I had to lie on the floor because I felt so strange. My right arm was tingling and I was shivering from head to toe.

My co-workers thought I was having a stroke. “Nah, don’t be silly” I said, jumping straight back up, determined to finish the foils. At this point my client was also looking concerned and told me she also thought I’d had a stroke. I wasn’t walking properly, but I stubbornly vowed to finish the task and take myself to hospital afterwards. 

By the time I got to hospital, I didn’t have control of the whole right side of my body. All signs pointed towards a stroke. After a bunch of tests, I was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). FND is a condition where people experience neurological symptoms like weakness and blackouts, as well as movement disorders and sensory symptoms. Basically, the brain is structurally normal, but doesn’t function properly due to stress. It all came as quite a shock. 

Being stuck in hospital was frustrating, even for a short time, I just wanted to be home to support my daughter rather than be stuck in a hospital bed. 

A few days later, I returned to work. I struggled to stand for more than a few minutes at this point, but determined as ever, I picked up a pair of scissors and got myself to stand. “Are you okay?” asked my client. “Yeah, I’m good,” I replied, as I began to cut their hair, having to learn how to control my arm and hand all over again. 

My love for hairdressing was one of the driving forces in my recovery. The action of using the scissors repeatedly became a form of rehab and I could feel my strength improving until I was able to do what I loved with ease once again.

Although my FND definitely knocked me off my feet, I never let it stop me from getting back to doing what I love and helping others. It also made me realise the importance of understanding the F.A.S.T (Face.Arms.Speech.Time) signs of stroke.

It was then that I set myself a new goal - I decided to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the highest number of haircuts in 24 hours. I had to complete 527 haircuts. I used the opportunity to raise some money for charity and the attempt even featured on a TV show.

In the space of just over six weeks, I’d gone from being diagnosed with FND to cutting hair for the world record attempt, live on national television. I was really proud of the hard work I had done to get myself to that point. Although I didn’t quite make it to 527, I’m going to try again this year (June 2020). 

Although my condition did not end up being diagnosed as a stroke, I tell all my customers how common stroke is and that they should know how to spot one because it could save a life. 

I have also learnt you should never minimise your symptoms – especially when everyone else is telling you something is wrong. Stroke symptoms require urgent attention. The faster the treatment, the better the chance of a good outcome.  

Brooke being interviewed on the news