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Stroke survivor Emily Wright shares her story

District marks National Stroke Week.

Compilation of images of a woman
SydneyConnect Image: Emily Wright

Radiographer Emily Wright belongs to a specialist team at RPA who care for stroke patients.

Three years ago, when she was 28, she became one of their patients.

“I woke-up one morning in July 2018 and my face felt tingly on the right side. My smile was a little droopy. I was uncoordinated getting out of bed and it was tricky to walk,” she said.

She saw her GP and later had a scan at John Hunter Hospital, which was the closest major hospital near to her then home at Nelson Bay.

The scan showed she had a clot blocking an important artery in her brain. She was treated with clot-busting medication, but when her symptoms worsened she was taken to RPA.

RPA’s Comprehensive Stroke Service offers 24/7 endovascular clot retrieval (ECR) for ischaemic stroke patients from across New South Wales.

ECR is a complex emergency procedure to remove clots and involves a team including an anaesthetist, neurointerventional radiologist, neurologist, intensivist, radiographers and specialist nursing staff.

It can be done up to 24 hours after the onset of a stroke.

“I was a member of the team who was now caring for me at RPA. All my colleagues were called in. I locked eyes with neurointerventional radiologist Dr David Brunacci. We had done procedures together before,” Emily said.

The procedure went smoothly and Emily has since recovered.

In 2020, 176 patients received ECR, including 126 patients transferred to RPA from across NSW.

Emily’s experience has given her an insight into the challenges patients may face.

“It made me realise how scared and helpless patients may feel, especially if they can’t move or look around. It can be very traumatic,” she said.

The Stroke Foundation states more than 27,400 Australians had a stroke for the first time in 2020. And, the longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage.

Emily is sharing her story during National Stroke Week, which aims to raise awareness about learning the F.A.S.T. (Face. Arms. Speech. Time) signs of a stroke.

“Sometimes, it may not be on a doctor’s radar because of a person’s age, but stroke isn’t something that just happens to older people. A stroke can happen at any time in your life.

“And learning the common signs of stroke can change the outcome of a patient’s recovery,” she said.

Face - Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

Arms - Can they lift both arms?

Speech - Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time - Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call triple zero (000) straight away.

After a break, Emily has returned to the working with her colleagues at the RPA Comprehensive Stroke Service.

“It’s rewarding to care for patients who are in a similar situation. It’s my way of giving back. I received a second chance as a result of this amazing service,” she said.