WHEN 17-year-old Bethany Sinfield woke in the middle of the night unable to swallow she staggered from her bedroom to wake her parents.
“I didn’t know what was happening to me it was all so scary.”
Bethany’s mum called an ambulance which arrived 15 minutes later but by this stage Bethany was unable to walk or talk.
“As I was carried into the ambulance I vomited and the paramedics started asking me whether I’d been taking drugs.
“There was an assumption that because I was a teenager my problems must be drug or alcohol-related but I’ve never taken drugs and drink only moderately,” says Bethany.
At accident and emergency doctors appeared baffled by her symptoms and suspected meningitis, an infection of the protective lining of the brain and spinal cord.
They ordered a lumbar puncture to get a sample of her spinal fluid but the results were negative. “Despite my slurred speech and paralysis they did no tests for stroke, where either a blood clot or bleeding caused by a leaking blood vessel restricts blood flow to the brain,” says Bethany.
“Crucially I was not given an MRI scan, the only test that can confirm a diagnosis of stroke.
“I was absolutely terrified and cried my eyes out because I felt so powerless and frustrated.”
Bethany was eventually seen by a neurologist who diagnosed a suspected stroke and arranged for her to be transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge later in the day.
“The MRI scan confirmed I’d suffered a stroke in my brain stem caused by a blood clot, called an ischaemic stroke, the most common sort.
“By this stage however it was too late for me to have thrombolysis, the clot-busting drug treatment that might have dispersed the clot and prevented the brain damage I suffered.”
Bethany was left “locked in” for the next week unable to speak or move.
“It was nightmarish. I could hear people talking about me and my condition but had no way of letting them know that inside my brain I was fine, it was just my body that wouldn’t do what I wanted it to,” recalls Bethany.
“It took me four months before I could communicate with anyone after speech therapy and physiotherapy at London’s Northwick Park Hospital.
Bethany is one of 1,000 people under 30 in the UK who suffer a stroke every year including children and babies.