Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I've only just found out that I suffered a stroke three years ago' - shocked mum (39)

Belinda McCann, who suffered a stroke aged 35, with husband Carl and their children (left to right) Carla, Abbie and Ben
Belinda McCann, who suffered a stroke aged 35, with husband Carl and their children (left to right) Carla, Abbie and Ben

Laura Lynott

A young mum has told how she has only just found out that she suffered a stroke - more than three years after she fell ill.

Belinda McCann, from Ballyfermot, was just 35 when her head started throbbing while making lunch in October 2013.

At the time, Belinda (now 39) had no idea that within hours she would be clinging to life.

"I was so young when it happened - but I only just found out I actually had a stroke," Belinda said.

No one ever sat down and explained to me what had happened. I didn't think anyone so young could get a stroke - I was in shock. Belinda McCann

The mother-of-three said she was told she had suffered a brain haemorrhage.

On the day she suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) - a rare and life-threatening form of stroke - Belinda was at home with her daughter preparing to pick up her dad, Christie, to take him to hospital.

"I got this sudden pain in the back of my head. I'd been on the phone to dad," Belinda said.

Belinda told her daughter, Abbie, she did not feel well but then things got much worse.

"I got a sudden warm pain in my neck and the top of my head started throbbing," she said.

"I tried to make it to the back door but I just started being sick. It came out of nowhere, there was no warning sign."

Belinda's husband, Carl, rushed home when he heard how sick she was and he encouraged his wife to get some rest.

"We thought it was just a bug but I was vomiting non-stop," the Dubliner said.

Carl and Belinda's sister, Grace, called an ambulance. Quick-thinking Grace also notified the medical team at St James's Hospital that there was a family medical history of brain aneurysms.

Belinda was transferred to Beaumont Hospital and a craniotomy was carried out to locate the blood flow in her brain.

"It was just so devastating because I had been on one floor of the hospital at St James's and mum was on the floor above," Belinda said.

"Mum had an aneurysm 20 years earlier when my sister and I were teenagers. I never thought it could happen to me."

Belinda was only told in recent weeks, by her psychologist, that she had suffered a stroke.

"All I knew was I had a brain haemorrhage and I didn't know it was a stroke."

An SAH can be caused by a ruptured aneurysm, a congenital illness, or a head injury.

Sadly, Belinda still worries she could suffer another incident and she does not understand what happened to her.

"I'd been playing netball six weeks earlier and got a bang on the head. Maybe it was the bang on the head that caused it, I don't know. Maybe it was due to my family medical history," she said. "I was so young to have suffered a stroke and I didn't have a clue.

"The whole time I was in hospital I kept saying I had to go home to see my children because I just didn't know how serious it was and no one made that any clearer for me.

"A doctor said to me I am a young woman - but the point is I almost died with this and no one explained what was happening to me.

"No one in the hospital directed me to aftercare help either. I had to find the Headway organisation myself," she added.

Headway is a national organisation helping those who have suffered brain injury.

Only one-third of patients who suffer a SAH will survive with good recovery - a third will survive with a disability and a third will die.

SAH accounts for only 6pc of stroke cases but it tends to affect younger people.

The HSE did not wish to comment on the matter.

Beaumont Hospital said it cannot comment on individual patient cases, but advises anyone who has concerns about care received to contact the hospital's Patient Representatives Office to discuss the matter.

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