26-year-old stroke survivor Beccy Young from Northallerton, North Yorkshire thinks more needs to be done to raise awareness of strokes in young people.
Beccy never anticipated that her life would be impacted by a stroke in her mid-twenties. One year ago she was an active, artistic and sociable young woman in a loving relationship.
But at the end of January, Beccy began to feel unwell while at work.
“I suddenly got a huge blinding headache that didn’t last long and put this down to having a cold,” she said.
“I began to get a numb nose and lip but again, I put these down to having a cold, and maybe developing an infection of sorts.
“By the afternoon, I felt very ‘wrong’ – I didn’t exactly feel ill at the time, just unwell and out of sorts, and by this time, the numbness had spread across the right side of my face.
I remember laughing about this and joking with my colleagues that I had had an aneurysm or a stroke – little did any of us realise that this was actually the case.
Following the advice of NHS 111, Beccy went to the hospital that evening and, to her surprise, was told she had experienced a very small stroke.
Fast forward four days and Beccy was enjoying a Sunday at home with family. She said: “I had been feeling a bit better by this time and the mini stroke was just a story to laugh off."
However, that morning something went very wrong…
Recalling what happened, Beccy said: “My neck began to hurt then I got a blinding pain in my head again. I began to feel sick and I tried walking from the living room to the kitchen.
“My legs felt shaky and weak, I bumped into every item of furniture possible and by the time I had got to the living room door I had collapsed to the floor calling for my parents, and began violently vomiting.”
After being driven by her parents to the local hospital, Beccy was blue-lighted to a bigger hospital in Middlesbrough.
Talking about the ambulance journey, Beccy said:
I remember trying to talk to the paramedics but constantly biting my numb tongue, slurring over words and forgetting words.
I don’t remember much else about that day, just waking up the next morning in the stroke ward.
This time, Beccy had experienced a far larger stroke leaving her with devastating effects and a long journey of recovery ahead.
Sadly Beccy’s partner, while initially supportive, felt unable to stand by her and their relationship broke down during her stay in hospital.
“I had to learn to walk again,” said Beccy. “My balance and coordination were so off following the stroke, and I’m still doing physio now to help.”
“I can’t walk for long periods and can’t stand up still for more than two seconds without falling over.
“The right side of my head is slightly numb and I still smile a little wonky.”
Thankfully, Beccy continues to make progress in her recovery and now has the love and support of a new partner. However, she says that the reactions of others can make things difficult.
She believes the lack of awareness of stroke in young people - and hidden disability in general - leads to many members of the public making unfair assumptions.
“I get a lot of funny reactions when trying to use disabled toilets and when I have a wobbly day on my legs,” she says.
People just see a 20-something-year-old and assume you are lying or attention seeking.
"Everyone is always in such a rush and being barged into is the norm, throwing me off balance every time."
I feel like I need to walk around with a giant label on me before I will stop getting funny looks and glares.
Beccy wishes people in public would be more patient when they see someone struggling or walking slowly because they don’t know the reason why.
She recalls attempting to walk down a flight of stairs in a department store - clinging to the railings and being guided all the way down by her boyfriend – only for a man behind to shout, ‘oh come on, hurry up!’
I wish I could tell people ‘I’ve had a brain injury, please accept that my brain doesn’t work like yours all the time'.
Looking to the future Beccy plans to keep pushing on with her recovery: “My goal is standing still for 10 seconds without falling, then to stand with my feet together, which I can’t do at all now. To keep practicing my writing and then eventually drawing (I keep dropping the pencil, pens are easier to grip!)
“I’ve recently returned to work in my job at the operations hub for roadworks and maintenance across North Yorkshire and I want to continue building my career with my incredibly supportive employers.”
Beccy has remained positive from the moment she had the stroke, saying: “Being positive was easy, as when I heard the words ‘you’ve had a stroke’ my first thought was ‘wow, I’m still alive, that is amazing!’, and I’ve just kept on thinking that over and over again since. I genuinely feel really lucky and humble to still be here even if life is dramatically different than it once was.”
When asked what advice she would give to fellow young stroke survivors she says: “Remember that recovery is not a race, it is a long road with a winding route that doubles back on itself at times, but keep pushing on and bit by bit you’ll hit your goals.”
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