Life After A Stroke
Soon after celebrating her 23rd birthday, Kirsten Longworth had a stroke that would lay her low for six months. After learning to walk and talk again, she’s now living life to the fullest.
Having always suffered severe migraines, Kirsten Longworth wasn’t worried when a sudden headache come on one night as she was cooking dinner. She simply decided to lay down for a bit. Even when her body started shaking and pins and needles ran through the right side of her body, she told her housemate Ebony to hold off calling an ambulance.
“Ebony Googled my symptoms and told me ‘It says you’re having a stroke’ but I thought ‘of course Google says the worst’ and asked her to wait five minutes.”
However, Kirsten’s body deteriorated further and she soon gave the nod to dial 000.
“They thought I was on drugs because my blood pressure was almost double what it should be,” says Kirsten, who was rushed to the Emergency Department of Southport Hospital in the Gold Coast.
“I was clueless about the signs of a stroke and still can’t believe that was my diagnosis.”
Waking up in ICU, Kirsten couldn’t move the right side of her body, her words were slurred and she could see four of everything.
“I was still unaware of what had happened until the doctor sat at the end of my bed and said ‘You’re extremely lucky to be alive, you suffered from a Haemorrhagic Stroke – your physical health and age is what pulled you through darling.’
“As it turned out, having a blood blister at the age of five had left me vulnerable to a stroke. The blister got infected, popped and blood poisoning travelled to my kidneys. With kidney problems comes high blood pressure and with high blood pressure comes the risk of a stroke.”
Kirsten also says stress in the lead-up to the stroke was a factor.
“I was moving houses, struggling financially and was extremely worried about my mother’s health,” Kirsten says. “Understanding stress is a real thing that can cause high blood pressure and has been key to my recovery.”
After her stroke, Kirsten needed a nurse to attend to her every need. Now she’s soon to celebrate three years as Head Barista at Jam Corner.
“In hospital, I began doing physio and speech pathology twice a day. To say it was tiring is an understatement, but I was determined,” Kirsten says. “I set myself goals and I practiced and practiced until I was finally discharged four weeks after I was admitted.”
Kirsten was lucky enough to bounce back within six months of her stroke.
“I’ve chosen a plant-based diet for the benefit of my kidneys and high blood pressure and I swear by an active lifestyle,” she says. “Although I may not be as strong as I used to be, I wouldn’t stop training for anything in the world.”
For others going through a tough time, Kirsten says positive thinking is what got her through.
“Your brain controls your body. What you think, your body will do,” Kirsten says. “So, in saying that, you must be proactive about what you want out of life.”