Condobolin local and proud Wiradjuri woman Charlotte Porter is intent on making a difference to other stroke survivors.
During National Stroke Week, she gave a presentation to a small number of people at Marathon Health, highlighting the need to take notice of signs that may be pointing towards a stroke by sharing her own personal journey as a stroke survivor.
In 2020, she was selected to join the Lived Experience Working Group as part of the Stroke Foundation Young Stroke Project.
“Stroke changed my life in an instant. I went from being a busy working mum of four children who enjoyed exercise to being unable to move from a chair or a bed by myself for 15 weeks,” she explained.
“I couldn’t cook or clean, play with my toddler or go to work. It was confronting and incredibly challenging for me and my loved ones.
“People don’t talk about stroke much, so I felt alone.”
Stroke strikes in an instant, changing lives for survivors and their loved ones. Like Charlotte, younger stroke survivors have much of their lives ahead of them; children, careers, roles in the community and financial responsibilities. Stroke can impact all of these.
Around 20 strokes a day impact Australians under the age of 65, with 142,000 stroke survivors are of working age. Ninety Six percent of young stroke survivors report having ongoing needs after their stroke and 88 per cent of young stroke survivors report unmet needs across health, everyday living, leisure activities, employment and finance – greater than older stroke survivors.
Hospitalisation rates for stroke are 1.7 times as high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous Australians.
The burden of disease for stroke is 2.3 times as high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous Australians.
Charlotte said she was determined to ensure other working age people with stroke did not feel isolated in their recovery and were able to navigate the health system effectively.
“Once I left hospital, I did not know where to turn and who to call for support. My husband and I had to work it out on our own. He had to stay home for 15 weeks to help me get back on my feet,’’ she detailed.
Charlotte is urging anyone who may have stroke symptoms to visit their GP.
“The first hour after a stroke is the most critical,” she stated.
“Symptoms of a stroke include trouble walking, speaking and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. In my case, I had headaches and fatigue. If you have a persistent headache that Panadol won’t fix, then you should see a doctor. It may be nothing or it could be something. It is better to be checked out than not to and end up in a very serious situation.
“People need to recognise the signs of a stroke. You need to apply the F.A.S.T. test. F – Check the person’s face – has their mouth drooped? A – Can they lift both arms? S – Is their speech slurred and do they understand you. T – Time is critical – if you see any of these signs call 000 right away.”
Facial weakness, arm weakness and difficulty with speech are the most common symptoms or signs of stroke, but they are not the only signs.
The following signs of stroke may occur alone or in combination: Weakness or numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides of the body; Difficulty speaking or understanding; Dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall; Loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes; Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches; and Difficulty swallowing.
A stroke is always a medical emergency. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage.
“Just because you are young, does not mean you are not at risk of having a stroke,” Charlotte said.
“Look at me – I wasn’t even 30, and stroke has changed my life dramatically.
“You need to take notice of what your body is telling you – the signs are warnings that all is not well with your health.
“Know the signs of stroke and don’t ignore them. “It is important the community heeds the message about stroke and how it can affect you and your loved ones lives.”
By Melissa Blewitt.