A woman says she has been left reliant on a wheelchair after doctors dismissed her stroke symptoms as anxiety.
Drewy NovaClara Curious felt numb while driving with her husband Avery in June last year.
The now 23-year-old went to hospital, where doctors spent hours trying to uncover what was wrong.
They eventually sent her home, saying she was too young to have a stroke and was probably just anxious.
Refusing to accept this diagnosis, Mrs Curious, of Toronto, went to another hospital, where she was diagnosed with ischaemic stroke.
The ‘wasted’ hours at the first hospital meant she had not been treated quickly enough, leaving Mrs Curious unable to walk or talk.
Being deaf, she normally communicated through sign language. During her recovery process, she had to relearn how to sign with her right hand, whereas she maintained her ability to fluently communicate with her left. She claims she is still dependent on a wheelchair to move around now.
Drewy NovaClara Curious has been left wheelchair bound (left) after doctors dismissed her stroke symptoms as anxiety. Once in hospital (right), doctors said she was too young to have a stroke. By the time she was diagnosed, the ‘treatment window’ had passed. The damage left Mrs Curious unable to walk
Mrs Curious had enjoyed a day out at a museum with her husband Avery (pictured together after the ordeal) when she started feeling numb on the drive home
Mrs Curious was on the way home from a day at a museum with her husband when her symptoms appeared.
On their way to the hospital, Mrs Curious managed to stay calm. ‘I already knew I was having a stroke, so I didn’t need to be informed of it,’ she said.
However, the medics she saw were less confident of the diagnosis and kept her waiting for hours.
‘The first doctors I saw diagnosed it as anxiety and did no treatment whatsoever,’ Mrs Curious said.
‘They said I was too young to have a stroke and discharged me. They wasted hours of my time and had caused me to miss the time window for treatment.’
Once discharged, Mrs Curious immediately went to another hospital, where she was diagnosed.
Doctors administered treatments that dissolved the blood clot that was blocking oxygen to her brain. She was also given blood pressure drugs.
‘When I realised the stroke was over and I had survived, the first emotion was relief,’ she said. ‘Then confusion, why did it happen?’
The cause of Mrs Curious’ ischaemic stroke is unclear. However, the health scare has been linked to smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and excessive alcohol intake. While initially they had no cause of her stroke, they soon found out that the cause was Elhers Danlos syndrome, which causes the collagen in her body to be made incorrectly, effecting the entire body particularly the joints.
After enduring pitying stares from strangers, Mrs Curious decided to give passers by ‘something to look at’. She decorates her wheelchair ‘Opal’ with ‘cool’ lights (pictured)
Mrs Curious is pictured in the first hospital she went to. After hours of waiting, she was sent home with a diagnosis of ‘anxiety’. Refusing to accept this, she then went to a second hospital
Mrs Curious initially relied on her husband to do almost everything for her, but is slowly regaining her independence.
‘The toughest part was just learning how to do everything again,’ she said. ‘The only family I have is my husband.
‘I’ve always been a very independent person. He now knows if I need help, I’ll ask for it. But otherwise, I can do things myself.’
Mrs Curious also battled with pitying stares from strangers. ‘I get stared at a lot,’ she said. ‘So, I give them something a little more fun to stare at.’
Mrs Curious has decorated her wheelchair, nicknamed Opal, with lights and often wears ‘bold’ clothes.
‘When people see my light up wheelchair, they always say, “That’s so cool”,’ she said. ‘I have a galaxy print license plate on the back of my chair with my name on it.
‘I decorate all of my mobility aids and wear crazy, fun make-up and bold outfits.’
Mrs Curious is speaking out to raise awareness strokes can occur at any age and the ordeal does not have to ruin your life.
‘I dance wild and free whenever I have the opportunity, and I love spinning wheelies,’ she said. ‘I don’t do boring. Fabulous is way more fun.
‘You don’t need to give up fun, hanging out with friends, learning, you don’t have to give up on anything.
‘You just have to learn how to do some things differently and sometimes that can be quite fun. I like to say, “Never forget fun”.’
Once diagnosed, Mrs Curious was treated with drugs to dissolve the blood clot blocking oxygen to her brain. She was also given blood pressure medication
Mrs Curious sometimes gets about with crutches, which she also decorates with lights
Mrs Curious (pictured with her service dog) warns strokes can affect people of any age
WHAT IS A STROKE?
There are two kinds of stroke:
1. ISCHEMIC STROKE
An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.
2. HEMORRHAGIC STROKE
The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.
It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.
Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.
Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.