I’d finished two university degrees, rock climbed around Thailand, backpacked through Europe, and played volleyball with the Australian squad. I worked full-time in the corporate world and lived a healthy lifestyle.
I wasn’t considered ‘high-risk’ for a stroke. I was wrong.
A rare strand of the streptococcus-A virus had a party in my body, but the party got out of control causing my brain to haemorrhage and for me to collapse at the Melbourne Airport. I was immediately rushed to hospital where tests and scans revealed the significant bleed in my brain as every one of my internal organs began to shut down.
My family were called in Brisbane and told to come to Melbourne immediately as I wasn’t expected to live through the night. My lungs had collapsed and I clinically died twice, but was resuscitated. Specialists contemplated draining fluid from my brain to ease the pressure, but decided instead to let my body absorb the bleed naturally as my condition was too fragile for surgery.
I spent the next three weeks in a coma and two months on life support. During this time I was having violent convulsions, apparently caused by the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
Numerous blood transfusions, kidney dialysis and trips to the hyperbaric chamber were all a part of the intensive care unit (ICU) circus for my family and me. Fortunately for me though, I don’t remember a thing. For two months my wonderful family camped outside the ICU. The news was never good, and specialists said my condition was not improving at all. They would test for a brain signal in one week and if none was found my family would need to consider turning off my life support. That was the longest seven days for my family.
To be honest there are still some days I doubt they’d find a brain signal before I have a strong morning coffee! When I came off life support I was transferred by air ambulance to Brisbane where more challenges began.
All up, I spent over a year in hospital (the first time). My extremities had turned gangrenous, and despite initial concerns that I could lose both legs and one arm, surgeons only had to amputate nine fingertips, all of my toes and one leg. By this time I was ‘healthy’ enough (infection free) for heart surgery.
After the first year I returned home, however, it wasn’t long before I was back in hospital having one of my hips replaced. I celebrated my 25th and 26th birthdays in hospital but knew that I still had so much life to look forward to.