December 12 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Strokes are often seen to mainly affect people in their older years. Claire Bush was just 20 years old when she suffered a major stroke as a result of an injury sustained in an attack from a rottweiler. In her first interview since the devastating attack nearly five years ago, she reveals how the incident has completely changed her life - but how she vows never to let it beat her.
Claire Bush was just a normal, loud and bubbly 20-year-old who liked to go out and dreamed of one day having her own home.
Yet on one fateful day in January 2009, her life was to be changed forever.
As she was out walking her dog, Connor, just a few hundred yards from her home in Coronation Avenue, West Winch, a rottweiler came running towards her.
Her instinct was to protect her own dog, kneeling down in front of him to shield him from any attack.
As she did so, the rottweiler went for her – with devastating consequences.
Despite her best attempts to fight the animal off, the dog kept up a relentless attack for 10 minutes until a passer-by saw what was happening and intervened.
In shock, Miss Bush went home and called her boyfriend and parents but noticed she was rapidly starting to lose feeling in her right arm and leg. She was also losing the power of speech.
Little did her or her family know that she was suffering a severe stroke. She had injured her neck in the incident which caused a blood clot to form.
“I thought she was having a panic attack,” said her mother, Susan. “I wouldn’t be thinking that it was a stroke in a million years.”
At first she was taken to Watlington Medical Centre.
They realised that she needed urgent medical attention, with doctors and nurses carrying her to a car so she could be taken to the emergency Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
It was there that an MRI scan showed she had suffered a major stroke, which had left her partially paralysed and in urgent need of brain surgery.
Her mother explained: “I thought I’d come into hospital and see her the next day and she would be all right.
“She couldn’t speak and she couldn’t recognise me.”
Miss Bush was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, for a craniotomy – a critical operation where part of the skull is removed to allow space for the swelling in the brain so that it does not cause more permanent injury.
This was particularly important in her case, as her young age meant her brain was still growing and developing.
The operation was a success. However Miss Bush then faced what was perhaps the most difficult journey of all – the road to recovery.
“Initially, she couldn’t do anything at all,” her mother explained, citing how her daughter had to be drip-fed as she was unable to eat and could not walk or talk.
Teams at Addenbrooke’s started by working on her speech and language while she was unable to move, until she was moved to Colman Hospital in Norwich for further rehabilitation.
She later went back home and a metal plate was inserted to replace the part of the skull that had been removed.
Slowly, she started to improve her mobility and speech – but it was a struggle.
“Every baby step was a big step into the unknown,” she said.
“Being able to walk again was massive. The ability to talk again and being understood was a huge milestone. Being able to drive again and gain independence was life changing for me.
“To do simple things like putting in my contact lenses one handed is an achievement in itself. Being able to write with my left hand surprised everyone including me.”
In September 2011, Miss Bush started to attend a communication group run by the Stroke Association to help with her aphasia – a speech disorder which affects a third of all stroke survivors and which changed her ability to read, write and speak.
The group works by allowing people to communicate however is easiest for them – using pictures, writing or other methods.
“For Claire, a big part of it was confidence-building,” said Gemma Smith, who is communication support and long-term support co-ordinator for the Stroke Association in West Norfolk.
For example, it was often difficult for her to get words out and, if put on the spot, she would have difficulty finding the words.
Today, she still faces some of those difficulties.
Although she can walk, she also still drags her right leg and cannot move about as easily as she did in the past.
She also said it has changed her personality.
“I used to be loud and bubbly and I used to go out,” she said.
“Now I’m quiet – but I’m getting there.
“I miss wearing heels and platforms – it is just normal girl stuff but I can’t do it.”
Her mother added: “She has been braver than I would’ve been, that is for sure.
“Claire’s life was just beginning. She was just young and had all her dreams and ambitions taken away from her.
“That was the hardest thing to come to terms with.”
Miss Bush, now 25, has not been able to go back to her job at Morrison’s in King’s Lynn but still leads an active life.
She regularly volunteers at the communication cafés run by the Stroke Association, where she helps other stroke survivors during their recovery, and has spoken about her life-changing experience to students at the College of West Anglia – an experience she described as nerve-wracking but rewarding. “It is amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it,” she said.
“If I can overcome my confidence issues, who knows what I will be able to do in the future.”
Her ambition now is “going back to as normal a life as I possibly can”.