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'I know what it feels like to have your life turned upside down by stroke. And I am only 30 years old.'

I know what it feels like to have your life turned upside down by stroke. And I am only 30 years old.

Most people think stroke only impacts elderly people, but that is simply not true. It can happen to anyone at any age.

My world changed in September last year. I am a mum of two boys. I was working in retail and modelling part-time, when I suffered a stroke out of the blue. It was just like any other day.

I had been to work during the day, picked up the kids, and was going through the hectic night-time routine like mums across the country. I was getting my five-year-old son, Seth, ready for a shower when I fell backwards onto my bed and started to feel dizzy.

Stroke recovery
Tam recovering in hospital after her stroke. (Image: Supplied)

I called out to my now-husband, Nick, who realised something was seriously wrong. He took me straight to the emergency department at my local regional hospital. I didn’t know what was going on. I was scared.

I am not sure the medical staff at the hospital knew what was going on either.

After five hours in emergency, I was reviewed and admitted overnight, but discharged the next morning with no diagnosis. Once home, I slept on and off for nearly two days with worried family members watching over me in shifts. None of us knew what was happening. In an instant I went from a bubbly, active woman to almost a zombie.

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When I could no longer move, Nick rushed me back to hospital. My stroke was finally diagnosed and I was airlifted to Melbourne. My local hospital didn’t have the specialists or services needed to treat me.

The following morning surgery was conducted to remove part of my skull and save my life. The stroke had caused my brain to swell.

The stroke left me unable to walk and to feed myself, but I was alive.

My speech was so slow my family couldn’t understand me at first. I spent the next seven months in rehabilitation fighting to be well and get my life back. I was determined to not waste a day.

Nick and I had been planning to get married and found ourselves asking “what are we waiting for?”. We decided to go ahead with our wedding, but in a new location – the hospital gardens.

It was a magical day, we were surrounded by our loved ones. Our sons, Noah and Seth, carried the rings, which was incredibly special.

Tam with her husband Nick on their wedding day, which occurred outside the hospital. (Image: Supplied)

Afterwards, everyone in the ward joined in the celebrations with platters of food and gifts. It was so much fun. It was the first ever wedding on the rehab ward!

Today, I am making the most of life after stroke. I am finally out of my wheelchair, although I walk with a limp. My speech is slow and slurred. But I am here.

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My condition is constantly improving. I just got my driver’s licence back, which has been a huge achievement and I can now drive the boys to school. I have even started my own business making and selling flower crowns online.

In the lead up to National Stroke Week this September, I am determined to raise awareness of the signs of stroke so that nobody has to experience what I went through.

Stroke is one of the biggest killers in Australia and a leading cause of disability. It kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. Yet stroke is treatable.

I sometimes wonder what my outcome would have been if my stroke had been diagnosed earlier and whether I would have fewer ongoing issues. These days, there are amazing treatments which can make an enormous difference if carried out early.

That’s why it’s so important to recognise the signs of stroke and act FAST. Every minute counts.

The earlier treatment is delivered, the better the outcomes can be for patients like me.

My stroke may have put my life on a different course, but it hasn’t changed my personality or attitude. I stay positive, I love being a mum and I am fortunate to be alive.

LISTEN: Dr Ginni Mansberg shares the common things women just don't know about their bodies (post continues after audio...)

National Stroke Week is taking place Monday 4 September to Sunday 10 September 2017. This year, Stroke Foundation is asking Australians to join the FAST Response Team by knowing and sharing the signs of stroke. Think F.A.S.T act FAST.

When it comes to stroke, every minute counts. Time saved = brain saved. The earlier appropriate treatment is delivered, the better the outcomes can be for patients.

Face - Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms - Can they lift both arms?
Speech - Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time is critical.

If you see any of these symptoms Act FAST and call 000 immediately.

The Stroke Foundation is a national charity that partners with the community to prevent, treat and beat stroke. We stand alongside stroke survivors and their families, healthcare professionals and researchers. We build community awareness and foster new thinking. To support survivors on their journey to live the best possible life after stroke, donate here.

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