Saturday 1 October 2016

Holiday nightmare: Irish athlete (25) has to learn to run again after devastating stroke in Thailand

Published 23/07/2015 | 12:23

Lisa O' Donoghue. Photo: Ernie Leslie
Lisa O' Donoghue. Photo: Ernie Leslie

An Irish athlete who had a stroke and a brain haemorrhage while holidaying in Thailand three years ago will represent Ireland in the Cerebral Palsy World Games next month.

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Lisa O’Donoghue (25) had just begun a year-long trip with her friends when her health took a turn for the worst and led to extensive brain surgery and years of rehabilitation.

Lisa O' Donoghue. Photo: Ernie Leslie
Lisa O' Donoghue. Photo: Ernie Leslie

“I was going the Thailand for six weeks and then we were going to go on to Australia,” said Lisa speaking to The Anton Savage Show on Today FM.

“I got on the plane and I felt very unwell. I fell asleep which wouldn’t have helped and I got off the plane and still felt very unwell and I went to a hotel that night. The other girls went out for something to eat but all I wanted to do was sleep so they went and they came back in.

“I thought it was a headache I didn’t think it was anything else.

“The next day was Friday the 13th, unlucky for some. I had a shower and put on my clothes and my makeup and I went into Lydia in the toilet and there I had a stroke,” she said.

Lisa O'Donohue in hospital, with Martin O'Donoghue (brother) on the left and Neil Donohoe (cousin) on the rigHT
Lisa O'Donohue in hospital, with Martin O'Donoghue (brother) on the left and Neil Donohoe (cousin) on the rigHT

Lisa revealed that she instantly lost power in her right arm and leg, and her ability to speak was hampered.

“My voice went and my hand went dead. I went down on the floor. My leg went dead. I crashed over Lydia in the toilets. I was 22,” said Lisa.

Lisa revealed that her friend realised she was suffering from a stroke and knew the importance of quick action from years watch US hospital drama ER.

I sat down on the toilet and Aoibhinn went down to reception. They sent up seven Thai men to bring me to a taxi because all my right side was completely dead. I went to a hospital.

“I had a complete loss of power.

“Fiona said,  ‘I don’t care what you have to do but do it quickly because she’s had a stroke.

“A year later I asked her how she knew that and she said she and her dad used to watch ER.

“I went to a private hospital in an ambulance. They took me down for an MRI and I got the clot in my head removed. It was 22mm.

“They went through my groin to remove the clot. I came out with my hand and my foot grand and my speech took a little bit of time to come back,” she said.

Although Lisa’s doctors okay-ed her to continue travelling after the stroke the then 22-year-old began to feel extremely unwell.

“On the Saturday they checked me from head to toe for more clots. I said to the doctor the next day should I go home or should I continue on going and he said I think you should continue.

“On the Sunday the girls and I were talking about Laos and I suddenly said ‘Oh girls there’s something wrong here’ and that is when a haemorrhage happened.

“I don’t remember anything after that because I was unconscious but my brother and cousin flew over and my friends were with me for three weeks until my brother told them to go on without me because I had to go home,” said Lisa.

Lisa’s brain haemorrhage left her with cerebral palsy which meant that her once dominant side was very weak and her speech was impaired.

“They had cut all my hair off during the surgery I hardly recognised myself in the mirror.

“My dominant was dead and weak. My speech was very slow to come back. My hand and foot are still weak.

“I stayed in Thailand for a month and then I came home to Beaumount and spent two weeks there and then I went over to the NRH in Dun Laoighere for rehabilitation which has taken a few years.

“I had to get everything back on track,” she said.

Positive Lisa revealed that she never felt angry or hard done-by despite the terrible circumstances as she had a huge amount of support from her family.

“My family and my mother, father and brother were there for me and when someone falls down you have to pick them back up. They’re very positive people. I just thought that God has a different plan for me than I have myself,” said Lisa.

Despite what she’s been through Lisa’s love of sports inspired her rehabilitation and the runner is now set to compete in the Cerebral Palsy World Games in Nottingham next month.

“Sports was always a big thing for me and athletics was my thing.

“I went out to Santry, a friend had asked me to go out, and I competed in able-bodied running. They were great at including me.

“Then I was offered the opportunity to go to Nottingham and I went back to my retired coach and he had done work on my hand and leg. I asked him if I should take the opportunity to go to Nottingham and compete in the Cerebal Plasy World Games and he said ‘Of course’.”

The athlete will be running the 100m and 200m at the games next month and it will be the first time she will be on a plane since her Thailand experience three years ago.

“It’s my first plane ride since Thailand three years ago. I don’t think it will bring back any bad memories. I’m more thinking about my sport rather than the plane,” she said.

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