Lost for words
Emily Cane, 26, from Exeter, thought nothing of her headache, until she woke up unable to speak…
Cheering my students on, I felt a pulsing in my head.
A Performing Arts teacher at a primary school, I was helping out at the after-school talent show.
Almost home time, I thought. It was March 2017 and I’d had a pounding headache all day.
Certain it was nothing, I’d powered through.
But as I stood there watching the kids perform, I collapsed. Everything went black. The next thing I remember is waking up in Royal Devon
and Exeter Hospital.
A thousand questions raced through my mind. How did I get here? What happened?
I looked around and saw my dad, Roger, 66. ‘Hi Em,’ he said, relieved. I tried to respond, but no words came out.
What’s going on? I panicked. Sensing my fear, Dad placed his hand over mine.
‘Don’t worry, just relax,’ he reassured me.
I tried to move my right hand, but it was frozen. So was my arm and leg. Just then, a doctor walked in. And what he said turned my world upside down. ‘You’ve had a severe stroke,’ he told me.
It’d caused paralysis down the right-hand side of my body.
Doctors later discovered that it had also brought on a condition called aphasia, meaning that I wasn’t able to talk.
I struggled to process everything.
I was only 25 and had
sobbed to myself. Over the next 10 days, I had various scans to try and find the cause of my stroke. I was also prescribed seven types of medication to help with my pain and anxiety.
And I began with physiotherapy.
‘With hard work, you could walk again,’ my physio said.
So I gave it everything I had.
I pushed as hard as I could, and slowly I started to notice an improvement.
By the end of those 10 days, I was walking with the help of a frame.
I can do this, I thought. I refused to let this stroke rob me of everything.
I started having occupational and speech therapy every day, too.
And just like my walking, I gave it my all.
Finally, my test results suggested that there had been a problem with my heart.
So I had a full body scan and X-rays to look for any issues which would have led to my stroke.
Holding up my X-ray results, a doctor pointed to a gap on a picture of my heart. ‘Right here is where the hole is,’ he explained.
The news was hard to take in.
There was a hole in my heart.
I’d had no idea how it got there and I just couldn’t believe it. The doctor said that it was likely that I’d been born with it, but only now was it causing me problems.
The hole had led to a blood clot in my brain, and that’s what had caused my stroke.
I was booked in for an operation to fix it right away. The idea of the procedure was scary, but I knew it had to be done. So, last July, I had surgery. It involved inserting a device into my heart, allowing tissue to grow over it and close the hole.
While I recovered, my speech therapy continued.
Slowly but surely, I began forming words again.
Last August, I was finally allowed to go home.
I could walk for short distances but needed a walking stick to help me.
I’m still having daily speech therapy and physio. I have good days and bad. In March this year, I was able to point my toes for the first time.
That might seem like a small thing, but to me it was amazing.
It means that one day I could maybe dance again.
It’s madness to think that my life changed in an instant, and it all started with a headache. But I know I’m lucky to be alive. And even though it’s a long road to recovery, I’m certainly no quitter.
I’d had it my whole life
I was only 25
I will dance again