baby

'I came home in a wheelchair.' Six weeks after having her baby, Kerry had a stroke.

As I walked with my little boy to his new school for his first day of Prep a few weeks ago, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement. He had made it this far; to put on his too-big blue school uniform, but so had I. I had made it this far too. 

My son, Zephyr’s, birth had been a textbook caesarean. I was told by the hospital’s physio that I had no muscle separation and as such, had great movement afterwards. 

I felt all those happy endorphins that new mums talk about. The start of our life as a little family of three could not have been better. Until it wasn’t.

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My husband and I had a final appointment at the hospital – Zephyr’s final six-week paediatric check-up. 

I remember my husband pushing the pram ahead of me, when I fell against a wall, crashed to the ground and started to vomit. 

I was rushed to emergency, where I faded in and out of consciousness as my husband called my parents and the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me.

I couldn’t walk, and I didn’t know why. I just wanted to go home. 

I remember trying to demonstrate to the physio that I was fine, by leaning onto a wheelie walker, and my husband stood with her, watching me with our six-week baby in his arms, looking very concerned.   

So, I had to stay in the hospital as I cried to go home to be with my baby. I subsequently got pneumonia as my throat was paralysed. 

Finally, an MRI showed an artery in my neck had torn, causing a stroke. 

Thankfully, the bleeding had stopped by itself, which is why I was alive. But I had a whole bunch of symptoms that would make it difficult to raise a very busy little boy for the next few years.

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I came home in a wheelchair, with double vision, a “smoker’s voice” and no sense of temperature on the right side of my body. 

I also had continuous pins and needles sensation on the right side of my face. I couldn’t eat or drink properly – food had to be mushy and water had to be thickened.

I couldn’t carry Zephyr, but slowly I was able to walk again, so I pushed him around the house in his pram. 

I couldn’t drive but asked my parents to drive the two of us to the park, so I could walk him around outside. 

The two of us went to swimming lessons - holding him in the water was much easier for me. 

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Sadly, as I got stronger, he got heavier, so he was always just a little too heavy for me. But the pool was a great idea, and it was fun – we looked at each other and laughed singing silly songs in the pool.  

I had to work with a speech therapist to try to get my voice back to normal. 

Being a parent with an acquired brain injury had its difficult moments. 

I had always imagined taking my baby or toddler out for little play dates or outings, but we mainly stayed at home.  

I didn’t have the opportunity to join a Mother’s Group (I had so many specialist appointments to organise) and I would have liked to do that, so we could get out more and meet parents.  

When Zephyr became more mobile, I didn’t have the strength or agility to run after him. 

I found it extremely difficult staying at home with him, as I became tired, his energy was relentless. My parents would come over and play with him, and when I started to drive short distances, I went there. Because the injury was inside my head and unseen, I never received offers of help from the community when I found myself struggling with him.  

There were also no government programs or funds I could access. I was told time and time again that I was too young to have a stroke.

The worst moment was when at a friend’s house when Zephyr was about one. 

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He was upset, but when I tried to console him, he pushed me away and just wanted his dad. This was because his dad was getting up in the night when he cried because I couldn’t. It broke my heart. 

The absolute worst thing is not being able to go to your child when they need you.

After a lot of work, most of the deficits went away. I can see a lot better and only have double vision when I am tired. 

My voice is back to normal. My main goal was to be able to run around with Zephyr, and now I can bounce on the trampoline with him!

Image: Supplied.

One day when Zephyr is older, I will tell him what happened to his mum when he was little.  

I think he already knows something: last year when his whole kindy class graduated, the children stood in front of the parents to sing. But Zephyr wanted me to stand with him. He stood swinging my hand, looking at me as he sang his little heart out.  

I felt like he was saying: "We’ve done it, Mum!"

Feature Image: Supplied.

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