A former nursery nurse who suffered a stroke at the age of 33 says she has been spared a life of never-ending anxiety after moving to a residential home.
Hazel Jones had to have a 16 hour operation and was unconscious for weeks after the stroke which followed an aneurysm in her brain.
She said: “Basically my brain blew up completely out of the blue. I had no real symptoms, I was just getting on with life one day, happy-go-lucky, and then I felt this tremendous pain at the back of my head like someone had hit me with a hammer. The next thing I knew I was waking up in hospital.”
Hazel has now been living at Pendine Park’s Bryn Bella facility, Summerhill, near Wrexham, for seven years since the stroke occurred.
She said: “Being here has saved my life. Following the stroke I was a wreck and I still would be if it were not for the wonderful level of care and support I have received here.”
She was speaking at a coffee afternoon held at Pendine Park to raise money for Wrexham and District Stroke and Social Group which is affiliated to the Stroke Association charity.
Hazel and the staff at Pendine Park are keen to raise awareness about the important work of the Stroke Association and also about the need for people of all ages to be aware of the effects of a stroke.
Although still recovering from the traumatic physical and emotional effects of her own cerebral aneurysm, Hazel says she considers herself lucky that people were on hand to recognise her symptoms and get her to hospital immediately.
She said: “I trained as a nursery nurse, but at the time of my stroke I had a job helping at the Bryn Teg pub in Wrexham, which has since closed. I was fortunate that fellow staff realised straight away what was going on and they called for an ambulance immediately. Time really is so important for anyone suffering a stroke. It is exactly as it says on the Stroke Association’s national TV advert: the faster you receive medical attention, the more of you they can save.”
Hazel was taken to Wrexham Maelor Hospital which transferred her straight away to the specialist brain injuries unit at Walton Hospital, Liverpool.
She said: “Everyone was so good, they brought me back to life. Until this happened to me I had not realised how stroke affects people of all ages. It changes life completely. At first after my operation I could not speak well at all and all movement down my left side was affected.”
But it was not just the physical injuries which Hazel had to overcome, the emotional impact was also devastating.
She said: “When I was first discharged from hospital I went to live with my mum for a while, but I was a nervous wreck. I just could not cope with the constant anxiety, the fear of thinking that it could happen again any minute. I wouldn’t go out and I was scared to ever be on my own. I also suffered seizures and panic attacks. It wasn’t fair to mum, to my brother and sister or any of the family for me to place that burden on them. That’s when I moved here to Pendine Park. It was the best move I have ever made.”
Hazel said the support and expertise of the staff in helping her to rehabilitate has been second to none.
She said: “When I first came here I would not go out of my room, but now I have made so many friends, I have regained my confidence and some level of independence. I still take my life one step at a time; after what I have been through it’s the only way I can get by, but at least I can see light now at the end of the tunnel.”
Hazel’s speech has vastly improved and she has regained sufficient mobility to walk around independently, although she has partially lost her sight and the range of motion on the left side of her body is severely limited.
She now has the confidence to venture out to familiar places, and often meets her mum, Linda, for a coffee at a supermarket in Wrexham.
She said: “I still feel very nervous about going out on my own, but I use a regular taxi company. The drivers know me and my mum is always there waiting to meet me at the supermarket, which reassures me and makes it easier for me to find my way round. My family often come and visit me here and I’ve also started to attend Wrexham and District Stroke and Social Group meetings. They have been a real help. It’s a good way to socialise. We also have speakers and I’ve learned from fellow members about different ways they have coped. I am usually the youngest member there, but that is fine by me.”
Hazel said it was good to see so many fellow Pendine Park residents supporting the spring coffee morning, including hot drinks and fairy cakes contributed by Pendine Park kitchen staff, in aid of the Stroke Association.
It was organised by Pendine Park activities co-ordinator Nicky Clarke who has worked for the organisation for 10 years and known Hazel since she first arrived there.
Nicky said: “Hazel is a lovely person and a great help with events like this, she always encourages fellow residents to take part and have lots of fun. I also want to thank everyone who has donated raffle prizes for the afternoon and given a donation.”
A quick tot up showed that Nicky and the team had raised more than £50 even before the event officially started and the amount was sure to rise following a raffle of Easter eggs, a giant chocolate bunny rabbit and lots of other tempting prizes.
Nicky added: “A number of residents here have suffered strokes or been otherwise affected by brain injuries so the Stroke Association is a cause which is very close to all our hearts. The coffee afternoon is one small way we can support them and the vital work they do both locally and further afield.”
Wrexham and District Stroke Club has been supporting those touched by stroke for more than 30 years and meets on alternate Wednesdays at the Cunliffe Centre, Rhosddu Road, Wrexham, from 7-9pm.