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Courage Award

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Proudly sponsored by Medtronic

Recovering from stroke can be an uphill battle. The Courage Award recognises the indomitable courage and hope shown by survivors and carers in facing stroke recovery. This category is open to survivors and carers and celebrates individual recovery and resilience.

Courage Award Winner & Finalists

Tracey Gibb - Winner

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

It changed my life, dramatically. I lost my friends, my dreams of having a family of my own had been taken away from me and I lost my boyfriend and any chance of getting married. I didn't get any treatment or rehabilitation.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

Mostly my mum and family.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

They did change my life, in a massive way, but I am slowly getting back more of me and my life. Sure, I am still in this chair, and I am still locked in my body, but hey, I am alive. I have been given a 2nd chance. I have moved out of Highgate Park (formally known as Julia Farr), and into a house shared with another lady. However, I have decided that sharing isn’t for me and I am looking at moving out into my own city apartment. I now have a casual job at Scope Global, where I am part of a team with just disabled people, called Maven. I am getting back my independence and loving it. I haven’t given up on getting unlocked from my body, I’ll never give up on this.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

I have learnt since my stroke, never say never, never give up on your dreams, and what you believe too, be true to your heart. Also, get rid of all negative people who are in your life, they will just drag you down. Even though it will hurt, this is your life.

Tracey Anne Farnsworth

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

I have had two strokes. First in 2012 and the following in 2016. A stroke is completely life changing from the moment it happens. Initially talking and walking was off the table. And my right side was in a world of its own. I remember my Father and husband at the hospital, along with a physiotherapist trying to get my right side to walk. I took as many walks as I could around the ward with my Dad on one side and my husband on the other. I got there in the end. I needed my independence and that included getting from A to B. Talking, brain function, emotional blocking, thinking and a right side that didn’t work were all things that were different in life. I was treated at Epworth, Richmond and the services they provided medically and in rehab was life changing. I spent the first 6 weeks in hospital and then continued outpatient rehab for one year.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I’ve had the most supportive husband through my entire stroke journeys. Matthew has been the rock for me. No matter what I’ve thrown at him in 20 years of marriage, he is still my number one supporter. I’ve also had the support of one of my amazing dogs. Alfie is a Maltese x shit zhu and from the first day he visited and sat on my lap in a wheelchair, we have been inseparable. Without Matthew and Alfie, things may have been very different.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

Stroke changes you. Inside and out, you become someone that is a different to normal. You teach yourself things to help you cope with any deficits you may have. I got to reinvent myself and now I have a charity in Vanuatu that keeps my mind occupied. Returning to my normal vocation wasn’t an option, so I’ve been lucky enough to follow my passion to help less fortunate children. My journey has brought me to my new normal, my new me! I don’t need to look back because I look in front to where I’m going.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

Give yourself a break, it’s always tough at the start, but don’t give up. Work hard early to regain you... some things will take time to come back, but celebrate the small wins.

Rebecca Carbone

Rebecca

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

My stroke journey is an unusual one!

In 2014 a couple of small strokes were investigated and lead to the discovery of a tennis ball size brain tumour in the Cerebellum/Brain Stem area. Surgery was quickly organized.

Initially, the resection was successful. During the night, I suffered a hemorrhage in the same area. I was rushed into emergency surgery early the next morning. My prognosis was grim. I wasn’t expected to survive. Against all odds I woke up the following morning. I had lost absolutely everything. Every gross and fine motor skill. My speech. My vision (temporarily). My hair. I was like a vegetable.

My parents were advised by the neurology team to have me permanently placed in a nursing home with 24 hour care. Despite several neurological assessments (conducted by multiple hospitals) concluding there was no likelihood of recovery, my family refused. I was eventually admitted to the state head injury unit. Ironically, this same unit had assessed me as unable to be rehabilitated.

I have spent the past five years intensive rehabilitation including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counselling – all of which I continue to this day. I practice mindfulness and meditate daily, avoid stress at all costs, and maintain a positive attitude. Frequent visualisation of my rehabilitation goals has been – and still is – crucial to my success.

To date, I have been diagnosed with three further tumours in the Cerebellum/Brain Stem. I have yearly MRI’s to monitor the tumours as these are inoperable. The tumours - named Beryl, Meryl, and Cheryl - are stable and have shown no change. I have regained all motor skills, my driver’s license, and speak with a very slight speech impediment.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I have been incredibly blessed to have the unwavering support of my immediate family and my GP. Collectively, they made an enormous effort to advocate for me and my rehabilitation. The clinicians I have had throughout have been most encouraging and helpful, providing exercises I could replicate twice daily at home.

Fortunately my close friendship circle has stayed by my side. I'm more of a social butterfly now than I was beforehand!

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

The only tangible things I have left from my past are my loved ones, my pets, and my wardrobe. I lost absolutely everything. Every motor skill. My speech. My vision (temporarily). My career. My relationship. Every distinct and unique quality that made me, me. My pre-stroke life seems like a dream that happened to someone else.

Currently I am studying Life Coaching and am a student of the Lived Experience Educator Project run by the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University. This program may lead to employment within the faculty in different capacities – such as associate lecture, peer tutor, research assistant, etc – alongside students studying Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Social Work.

I speak to neurological support groups around Western Australia and volunteer with The Training Centre in Subacute Care (TRACS WA) to present the workshop Goal Setting in Rehabilitation to health workers and clinicians at hospitals around the State. Myself and TRACS WA (https://www.subacutecare.org.au/j/) were scheduled to present at the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment 2020 Conference (https://www.assbi.com.au/). Wisely, this conference hasbeen cancelled however I am preparing to make a submission next year!

I volunteer on the board of two not-for-profit organizations in the health sector as well as provide peer advocacy and support to other survivors throughout the country. In my spare time, I run a Facebook page titled Create Your Masterpiece Empowered Learning (https://www.facebook.com/CreateYourBeautifulMasterpiece/) where I provide encouragement and inspiration to a global audience.

My overall goal is to qualify as an Occupational Therapist. I intend to use all my qualifications and lived experience to assist other stroke and other brain injury survivors in rehabilitation and recreating a fulfilling life.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

To quote the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Find your goal. Narrow that goal down into the smallest details no matter how insignificant to create the way forward. When you achieve that goal, find another goal. Remember to celebrate every success no matter how insignificant it may seem.

The stroke journey is not linear. Be prepared to progress at the rate of two steps forward and one step back. It is full of triumphs and tears. Hope is one the most incredibly precious components of this journey. Empower yourself to draw boundaries and remove any naysayers who do not believe in you.

Rehabilitation may very well be the most difficult thing you have done but that amazing moment when you accomplish what others believed to be impossible is the sweetest reward of all!

Melissa Aveyard Cowie

Melissa

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

How did stroke change my life? It took it away, tipped it upside down and gave it back to me to piece back together.

I went to sleep one day fine; young, fit and healthy. I woke up the next, unable to walk, comprehend things or use the left-hand side of my body. In the early days of recovery, I gained the use of my arm and leg back with a few weeks. Emotionally and mentally though it took a huge toll, I cried a lot and didn't know why, I would be so tired, my brain would get so over stimulated, I was so alone in a ward of old people, it was scary. I felt so vulnerable and alone.

I still suffer anxiety and I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

My friends got scared and a lot of them walked out of my life forever.

As far as rehab went, I got intensive physio and occupied therapy on the stroke unit. They wanted me to go to rehab but I didn't want to go because I decided they were all old and I wanted to go home.

I did a number of exercises at home with pegs and therapy putty to help with fine motor and strength, I also accessed a hydro pool to do some exercises. When I was discharged, I wasn't given any further follow up or rehabilitation. I had to source it myself.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

In the early days, my parents and grandparents, my brother and his wife, and a few good friends, especially Max. These people never gave up on me and they were a huge support. In later years: my husband and kids, the young Victorian young stroke group founders Brooke and Wayne, the ACT stroke association and the other ACT stroke safe ambassadors. Also, two members of the ACT support group Glynda and Meg.

Actually, in a way everyone, I have amazing friends and family, I'm very fortunate.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

Before my stroke I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I was 19 years old, I had held a few jobs; most of them had been working with disabled and disadvantaged people but I had no real career pathway planned. While I was in hospital, I realised I wanted to do something in healthcare. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people. I studied and worked for a few years as an occupational therapy assistant on the rehab ward at my local hospital, working mainly with stroke survivors.

While working as an OT assistant I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I studied my enrolled nursing and then my Registered nursing, I have held various positions as a nurse over 10 years, I'm currently working as a community nurse.

I believe that having been a patient myself and having insight to how scary it can be, has made me have a lot of empathy and I am able to relate and build rapport easily.

Having a stroke at a young age showed me my own mortality and definitely gave my life direction and it helped ground me. My bad days are further apart now than they used to be. My stroke journey has been great. I have met great people and had amazing opportunities such as being involved in the launch of media campaigns at parliament house in Canberra. I have been on TV and radio and I have been a speaker at a stroke conference.

I founded a young stroke support group for other young people and I give talks to community groups as part of the stroke safe ambassador program. I’m proud of what I have achieved post stroke especially being a wife and Mum. I didn't know what was in my future but I'm very fortunate.

My journey continues.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

Be kind to yourself. Everyone's journey is different but you’re not alone. There are plenty of resources out there now. You have got this.

Jasmine West

Jasmine

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

All I thought was ‘this is it, my life’s over’. I was 25 and a fitness fanatic and all of a sudden, I couldn’t move anything but my eyes.

My stroke was a sudden event when I simply turned around at work and tore my basilar artery after a misdiagnosis of vertigo, I went home and slept. That morning I woke up in tears and everything from here gets really blurry. I was flown out to saint Vincent’s Melbourne where after four days of declining health, it was prompted I get a tracheostomy or die; Tracheostomy it was. After 18 days on life support and a bout of aspiration pneuomia, I lived.

I woke up in high dependency with locked in syndrome, all I could do was blink and think my hospital room was part of a plane. I could’ve sworn someone was asleep in there with me. After I came round a little more, I was then moved to a stroke ward, where I gained some movement slowly and was slowly getting weaned off my tracheostomy. All the while I was trapped like a prisoner in my own head (scary place). It was torture. Can you imagine everyone talking to you but you’re actually unable to respond besides a blink?

After gaining more movement back and having good results with my tracheostomy, I was transferred into Rehabilitation where daily physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy begun. It was slow going, but it was going and something was happening; I was unlocking.

My Tracheostomy was removed finally, the wound healed and I started talking again! I knew everything would be ok then. I could talk and I haven’t been quiet since. But it wasn’t that easy sadly, I ended up with aspiration pneumonia again and a code was called, I spent one night back in ICU.

The early days of beginning to speak all over again was like baby talk, people had the hardest time understanding but I would repeat a word or phrase over and over until someone understood me. My persistence has paid off. Part of my physiotherapy was to get me back on my feet and even just sit up by myself; that was the first goal. Slowly and slowly I started hitting goals and milestones. After 5 months of ICU, high dependency, stroke ward then intensive rehabilitation, I walked out completely unlocked.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I returned home with no real supports; the main one was my partner at the time. Unfortunately, our relationship ended on a bad note. I was homeless, staying in hotels for 2 weeks until pleading my case to a property manager and getting a unit. I thankfully was completing my Certificate IV in Mental Health at the same time and had the people from my course and owner of the gym I attended for support and my old employer gave support as well. I was free; it was such a relief. Life had changed, for the better I think.

Now, as a year has passed, I have more supports: my boxing coach, my exercise psychologist, my whole rehabilitation team supports me and are my friends, The Stroke Foundation is a support and many more.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

My stroke has changed my life; I am no longer physically able to achieve the running I once had, but I gained so much as well from my stroke. It didn’t take away my brain and ability to learn. I am able to walk, talk and most of all eat yummy goodness that is food! I am at University this year with a scholarship studying psychology science. I always wanted higher education, but my childhood was impoverished and traumatic. My stroke has allowed me to follow my dreams and aspirations although a little differently, but hey I must admit having a stroke can come with perks if you allow them.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

My advice for stroke sufferers is you aren’t a victim. You are still you and you decide what effects the stroke has on you. The stroke doesn’t rule you as the individual you are, you rule the stroke. Be you. You do you; the stroke tags along third wheeling you. You are a stroke thriver and if you keep trying and trying something happens. Don’t ever give up and let your stroke win.

Tracey Gibb - Winner

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

It changed my life, dramatically. I lost my friends, my dreams of having a family of my own had been taken away from me and I lost my boyfriend and any chance of getting married. I didn't get any treatment or rehabilitation.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

Mostly my mum and family.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

They did change my life, in a massive way, but I am slowly getting back more of me and my life. Sure, I am still in this chair, and I am still locked in my body, but hey, I am alive. I have been given a 2nd chance. I have moved out of Highgate Park (formally known as Julia Farr), and into a house shared with another lady. However, I have decided that sharing isn’t for me and I am looking at moving out into my own city apartment. I now have a casual job at Scope Global, where I am part of a team with just disabled people, called Maven. I am getting back my independence and loving it. I haven’t given up on getting unlocked from my body, I’ll never give up on this.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

I have learnt since my stroke, never say never, never give up on your dreams, and what you believe too, be true to your heart. Also, get rid of all negative people who are in your life, they will just drag you down. Even though it will hurt, this is your life.

Tracey Anne Farnsworth

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

I have had two strokes. First in 2012 and the following in 2016. A stroke is completely life changing from the moment it happens. Initially talking and walking was off the table. And my right side was in a world of its own. I remember my Father and husband at the hospital, along with a physiotherapist trying to get my right side to walk. I took as many walks as I could around the ward with my Dad on one side and my husband on the other. I got there in the end. I needed my independence and that included getting from A to B. Talking, brain function, emotional blocking, thinking and a right side that didn’t work were all things that were different in life. I was treated at Epworth, Richmond and the services they provided medically and in rehab was life changing. I spent the first 6 weeks in hospital and then continued outpatient rehab for one year.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I’ve had the most supportive husband through my entire stroke journeys. Matthew has been the rock for me. No matter what I’ve thrown at him in 20 years of marriage, he is still my number one supporter. I’ve also had the support of one of my amazing dogs. Alfie is a Maltese x shit zhu and from the first day he visited and sat on my lap in a wheelchair, we have been inseparable. Without Matthew and Alfie, things may have been very different.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

Stroke changes you. Inside and out, you become someone that is a different to normal. You teach yourself things to help you cope with any deficits you may have. I got to reinvent myself and now I have a charity in Vanuatu that keeps my mind occupied. Returning to my normal vocation wasn’t an option, so I’ve been lucky enough to follow my passion to help less fortunate children. My journey has brought me to my new normal, my new me! I don’t need to look back because I look in front to where I’m going.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

Give yourself a break, it’s always tough at the start, but don’t give up. Work hard early to regain you... some things will take time to come back, but celebrate the small wins.

Rebecca Carbone

Rebecca

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

My stroke journey is an unusual one!

In 2014 a couple of small strokes were investigated and lead to the discovery of a tennis ball size brain tumour in the Cerebellum/Brain Stem area. Surgery was quickly organized.

Initially, the resection was successful. During the night, I suffered a hemorrhage in the same area. I was rushed into emergency surgery early the next morning. My prognosis was grim. I wasn’t expected to survive. Against all odds I woke up the following morning. I had lost absolutely everything. Every gross and fine motor skill. My speech. My vision (temporarily). My hair. I was like a vegetable.

My parents were advised by the neurology team to have me permanently placed in a nursing home with 24 hour care. Despite several neurological assessments (conducted by multiple hospitals) concluding there was no likelihood of recovery, my family refused. I was eventually admitted to the state head injury unit. Ironically, this same unit had assessed me as unable to be rehabilitated.

I have spent the past five years intensive rehabilitation including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counselling – all of which I continue to this day. I practice mindfulness and meditate daily, avoid stress at all costs, and maintain a positive attitude. Frequent visualisation of my rehabilitation goals has been – and still is – crucial to my success.

To date, I have been diagnosed with three further tumours in the Cerebellum/Brain Stem. I have yearly MRI’s to monitor the tumours as these are inoperable. The tumours - named Beryl, Meryl, and Cheryl - are stable and have shown no change. I have regained all motor skills, my driver’s license, and speak with a very slight speech impediment.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I have been incredibly blessed to have the unwavering support of my immediate family and my GP. Collectively, they made an enormous effort to advocate for me and my rehabilitation. The clinicians I have had throughout have been most encouraging and helpful, providing exercises I could replicate twice daily at home.

Fortunately my close friendship circle has stayed by my side. I'm more of a social butterfly now than I was beforehand!

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

The only tangible things I have left from my past are my loved ones, my pets, and my wardrobe. I lost absolutely everything. Every motor skill. My speech. My vision (temporarily). My career. My relationship. Every distinct and unique quality that made me, me. My pre-stroke life seems like a dream that happened to someone else.

Currently I am studying Life Coaching and am a student of the Lived Experience Educator Project run by the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University. This program may lead to employment within the faculty in different capacities – such as associate lecture, peer tutor, research assistant, etc – alongside students studying Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Social Work.

I speak to neurological support groups around Western Australia and volunteer with The Training Centre in Subacute Care (TRACS WA) to present the workshop Goal Setting in Rehabilitation to health workers and clinicians at hospitals around the State. Myself and TRACS WA (https://www.subacutecare.org.au/j/) were scheduled to present at the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment 2020 Conference (https://www.assbi.com.au/). Wisely, this conference hasbeen cancelled however I am preparing to make a submission next year!

I volunteer on the board of two not-for-profit organizations in the health sector as well as provide peer advocacy and support to other survivors throughout the country. In my spare time, I run a Facebook page titled Create Your Masterpiece Empowered Learning (https://www.facebook.com/CreateYourBeautifulMasterpiece/) where I provide encouragement and inspiration to a global audience.

My overall goal is to qualify as an Occupational Therapist. I intend to use all my qualifications and lived experience to assist other stroke and other brain injury survivors in rehabilitation and recreating a fulfilling life.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

To quote the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Find your goal. Narrow that goal down into the smallest details no matter how insignificant to create the way forward. When you achieve that goal, find another goal. Remember to celebrate every success no matter how insignificant it may seem.

The stroke journey is not linear. Be prepared to progress at the rate of two steps forward and one step back. It is full of triumphs and tears. Hope is one the most incredibly precious components of this journey. Empower yourself to draw boundaries and remove any naysayers who do not believe in you.

Rehabilitation may very well be the most difficult thing you have done but that amazing moment when you accomplish what others believed to be impossible is the sweetest reward of all!

Melissa Aveyard Cowie

Melissa

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

How did stroke change my life? It took it away, tipped it upside down and gave it back to me to piece back together.

I went to sleep one day fine; young, fit and healthy. I woke up the next, unable to walk, comprehend things or use the left-hand side of my body. In the early days of recovery, I gained the use of my arm and leg back with a few weeks. Emotionally and mentally though it took a huge toll, I cried a lot and didn't know why, I would be so tired, my brain would get so over stimulated, I was so alone in a ward of old people, it was scary. I felt so vulnerable and alone.

I still suffer anxiety and I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

My friends got scared and a lot of them walked out of my life forever.

As far as rehab went, I got intensive physio and occupied therapy on the stroke unit. They wanted me to go to rehab but I didn't want to go because I decided they were all old and I wanted to go home.

I did a number of exercises at home with pegs and therapy putty to help with fine motor and strength, I also accessed a hydro pool to do some exercises. When I was discharged, I wasn't given any further follow up or rehabilitation. I had to source it myself.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

In the early days, my parents and grandparents, my brother and his wife, and a few good friends, especially Max. These people never gave up on me and they were a huge support. In later years: my husband and kids, the young Victorian young stroke group founders Brooke and Wayne, the ACT stroke association and the other ACT stroke safe ambassadors. Also, two members of the ACT support group Glynda and Meg.

Actually, in a way everyone, I have amazing friends and family, I'm very fortunate.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

Before my stroke I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I was 19 years old, I had held a few jobs; most of them had been working with disabled and disadvantaged people but I had no real career pathway planned. While I was in hospital, I realised I wanted to do something in healthcare. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people. I studied and worked for a few years as an occupational therapy assistant on the rehab ward at my local hospital, working mainly with stroke survivors.

While working as an OT assistant I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I studied my enrolled nursing and then my Registered nursing, I have held various positions as a nurse over 10 years, I'm currently working as a community nurse.

I believe that having been a patient myself and having insight to how scary it can be, has made me have a lot of empathy and I am able to relate and build rapport easily.

Having a stroke at a young age showed me my own mortality and definitely gave my life direction and it helped ground me. My bad days are further apart now than they used to be. My stroke journey has been great. I have met great people and had amazing opportunities such as being involved in the launch of media campaigns at parliament house in Canberra. I have been on TV and radio and I have been a speaker at a stroke conference.

I founded a young stroke support group for other young people and I give talks to community groups as part of the stroke safe ambassador program. I’m proud of what I have achieved post stroke especially being a wife and Mum. I didn't know what was in my future but I'm very fortunate.

My journey continues.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

Be kind to yourself. Everyone's journey is different but you’re not alone. There are plenty of resources out there now. You have got this.

Jasmine West

Jasmine

How did a stroke change your life initially, and what medical treatment and rehabilitation have you had?

All I thought was ‘this is it, my life’s over’. I was 25 and a fitness fanatic and all of a sudden, I couldn’t move anything but my eyes.

My stroke was a sudden event when I simply turned around at work and tore my basilar artery after a misdiagnosis of vertigo, I went home and slept. That morning I woke up in tears and everything from here gets really blurry. I was flown out to saint Vincent’s Melbourne where after four days of declining health, it was prompted I get a tracheostomy or die; Tracheostomy it was. After 18 days on life support and a bout of aspiration pneuomia, I lived.

I woke up in high dependency with locked in syndrome, all I could do was blink and think my hospital room was part of a plane. I could’ve sworn someone was asleep in there with me. After I came round a little more, I was then moved to a stroke ward, where I gained some movement slowly and was slowly getting weaned off my tracheostomy. All the while I was trapped like a prisoner in my own head (scary place). It was torture. Can you imagine everyone talking to you but you’re actually unable to respond besides a blink?

After gaining more movement back and having good results with my tracheostomy, I was transferred into Rehabilitation where daily physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy begun. It was slow going, but it was going and something was happening; I was unlocking.

My Tracheostomy was removed finally, the wound healed and I started talking again! I knew everything would be ok then. I could talk and I haven’t been quiet since. But it wasn’t that easy sadly, I ended up with aspiration pneumonia again and a code was called, I spent one night back in ICU.

The early days of beginning to speak all over again was like baby talk, people had the hardest time understanding but I would repeat a word or phrase over and over until someone understood me. My persistence has paid off. Part of my physiotherapy was to get me back on my feet and even just sit up by myself; that was the first goal. Slowly and slowly I started hitting goals and milestones. After 5 months of ICU, high dependency, stroke ward then intensive rehabilitation, I walked out completely unlocked.

Who has been there to help you through your stroke journey?

I returned home with no real supports; the main one was my partner at the time. Unfortunately, our relationship ended on a bad note. I was homeless, staying in hotels for 2 weeks until pleading my case to a property manager and getting a unit. I thankfully was completing my Certificate IV in Mental Health at the same time and had the people from my course and owner of the gym I attended for support and my old employer gave support as well. I was free; it was such a relief. Life had changed, for the better I think.

Now, as a year has passed, I have more supports: my boxing coach, my exercise psychologist, my whole rehabilitation team supports me and are my friends, The Stroke Foundation is a support and many more.

How has stroke changed your life and where are you now on your stroke journey?

My stroke has changed my life; I am no longer physically able to achieve the running I once had, but I gained so much as well from my stroke. It didn’t take away my brain and ability to learn. I am able to walk, talk and most of all eat yummy goodness that is food! I am at University this year with a scholarship studying psychology science. I always wanted higher education, but my childhood was impoverished and traumatic. My stroke has allowed me to follow my dreams and aspirations although a little differently, but hey I must admit having a stroke can come with perks if you allow them.

What advice would you give a stroke survivor or someone that has recently suffered a stroke?

My advice for stroke sufferers is you aren’t a victim. You are still you and you decide what effects the stroke has on you. The stroke doesn’t rule you as the individual you are, you rule the stroke. Be you. You do you; the stroke tags along third wheeling you. You are a stroke thriver and if you keep trying and trying something happens. Don’t ever give up and let your stroke win.