IT was just a normal day like any other. Luke Webb was out with mates enjoying a meal at the local RSL when the unexpected happened.
“I just felt really funny, I couldn’t really move my arm, I felt really weak, my head felt really fuzzy and cloudy,” Webb said.
He was 20-years-old and his world was about to come crashing down.
“Then my face started to droop and my speech slurred and it was hard to move my arm.”
He was having a stroke.
It was a life-shattering event that would put his life on hold and lead to a frightening battle with depression.
Stroke is not something a young person expects to experience but it happens.
“You can never be too young or too old, it does not discriminate, it’s definitely not an old person’s disease,” he said.After he woke up in a hospital ward the reality of what happened set in.
“I couldn’t move my right side, my leg was a dead weight, I couldn’t move my arm, my face, my speech, my tongue,” he said.
“I looked around the room and across from me I had an old woman who had no mind, she was like a child, there was a man across from me secreting himself, next to me there was some other old person and I thought ‘oh my god, why me, why me, why me’ and I just felt so sorry for myself,” he said.
Webb, now 23 and an actor based in Sydney, described himself as a very healthy 20-year-old. He was suffering from deep vein thrombosis in his leg which he got from an overseas trip but doctors weren’t overly concerned by it. He was told to take tablets and return in a week if the pain increased. When the pain got worse and he returned the doctors couldn’t find anything. A few days later he had his stroke.
As he was lying in hospital, the blood supply to his brain diminishing, he was told again by doctors ‘you’re too young to be having a stroke’.
He is still angry that no one was able to help him sooner.
“The narrow mindedness and misjudgment of them could have prevented it,” he said.
He’s also angry that while the care he received once discharged was better than others it was still what he describes as “mediocre”.
And it was the mental scars that left their mark on Webb after he went home. While his mates were out enjoying life he fell into the grips of depression.
“I became so depressed for such a long time,” he said.
“I got into such a very dark place, a bad, bad, bad, dark place and I was there for quiet a while.
“I just didn’t want to be here anymore. It was all just getting a bit too much for me.
“I would just take pills and sleep, my friends thought I was on drugs.”
But Webb says he is one of the lucky ones. Apart from occasionally feeling tired or his mind feeling a little foggy, he has recovered well.
Webb now helps to spread awareness about recognising the symptoms of stroke — a timely reminder during National Stroke Week.
There are more than 20,000 stroke survivors under the age of 44 living in the community.
One third of all stroke survivors are of working age and in 2013, 45 Australians under the age of 34 lost their lives to stroke.
Dr Caleb Ferguson said there are a lot of incorrect misconceptions surrounding stroke.
“There’s a lot of myths that it is an older persons, white man’s disease and that’s just not true,” Dr Ferguson said.
“People do delay seeking help for a stroke because they think ‘it won’t happen to me’”.
He said there are four options for people who suffer a stroke. The patient will either die, receive inpatient rehabilitation, return home or will have to go to a nursing home if they require high level care.
For a young person who may need high level care their options are limited and not ideal.
Stroke survivors are often unable to drive and do things they would normally do — for a young person with a life stretching ahead of them this can be a difficult adjustment.
“You don’t really think about tomorrow I might not be able to wash myself, dress, eat, drink, talk,” Dr Ferguson said.
But the mental impact a stroke can leave isn’t just on the survivor, it has a flow on effect to the families who almost overnight become a carer.
And Dr Ferguson and Webb are angry that more isn’t being done, especially by The Government, to combat stroke and help those suffering.
“Stroke in Australia has been a national health priority for over 20 years since the John Howard government yet it has not received any federal funding commitment at all in those 20 years,” Dr Ferguson said.
They both agree that awareness is the key to helping prevent stroke and they endorse the stroke foundation F.A.S.T campaign.
Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms: Can they lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time Is critical: If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.
The University of Technology Sydney hosted a free public forum on Thursday September 15 to discuss new research promising better treatments for stroke survivors on their journey to recovery.
Original article here
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