December 7 2013 Latest news:
Adam Gretton, Health correspondent
Saturday, August 31, 2013
It was meant to be the adrenaline rush ending to a trip of a lifetime.
But within hours of Cija Smith taking a leap of faith on a 134m-high bungee jump in New Zealand, she began suffering the symptoms of a stroke.
A few days after returning to her Norwich home, the nurse suffered a devastating stroke, which left her paralysed down the right hand side of her body and unable to talk.
The 32-year-old, who is now recovering at her new home in Starston, in south Norfolk, has urged other young people to be aware of the signs of stroke after suffering the debilitating brain injury as a result of injuring her neck during the bungee jump.
The nurse, who works in the cardiology department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, has not been able to work since the stroke on April 1.
However, she said she had “no regrets” about doing the bungee jump in Queenstown, despite the “terrifying” consequences of the activity.
Miss Smith, was unable to speak full sentences for a few weeks after the stroke and is beginning to get more movement in her right arm and leg after the jump on March 25 caused a tear in the carotid artery on the left hand side of her neck, which caused a blood clot.
“As soon as I had the bungee jump, I got on a bus and I started to get tunnel vision, which in hindsight was the start of the stroke and should have been a warning sign. I got back to England and on Good Friday [March 29] I did not feel right, I had pins and needles in my leg and in the night I became paralysed on the right side and could not speak,” she said.
Miss Smith was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after suffering a mini stroke - a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
However, just as she was about to be discharged, she suffered a major stroke, which resulted in her being rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for potential brain surgery. She did not require surgery, but spent two weeks in hospital and four weeks on the Beech Ward rehabilitation unit at Norwich Community Hospital before returning home.
Miss Smith, who is able to walk, but has limited movement in her arm and hand, had come to the end of a seven month solo trip travelling around South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand when she did the bungee jump. She added that she had informed the bungee jump company, but did not blame them for her injury.
“The bungee jump was great fun and I wish I had not done it now, but I can not regret doing it.”
“It was not unsafe, I was just really unlucky. People should be aware that if something does go wrong they need to seek help. People need to be aware that young people get strokes and it is not that uncommon,” she said.
Miss Smith, who will be attending the Hunstanton beach run on September 22 to support the Stroke Association, added that she hoped to raise funds for the charity in future.
“When I had the stroke, I knew what was happening and I knew what to expect, but I did not know beyond the acute setting. It was terrifying and horrible and it was a real eye opener. If it had happened 24 hours before, I would have been in Kuala Lumpur overnight and I would have been in a hotel room on my own. I am getting more movements back, but it is a long process and they do not know if I will get all my movement back.”
“I love my job and I want to get back to work, but I do not know how and when,” she said.