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Autoimmune Disorder and Stroke: Dawn's Stroke Journey

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is based solely on the personal experiences and accounts of the interviewed stroke survivors. The symptoms, treatments, and challenges discussed by the interviewees are unique to their individual circumstances and should not be taken as medical advice or generalized medical claims. Readers should consult their healthcare professionals for advice and information specific to their own health conditions. Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) does not endorse or validate the medical accuracy of the personal experiences shared in this article.

Dawn leads a vibrant life as a homemaker and mother to twin boys in Singapore. She's always been active, enjoying activities like hiking, martial arts, yoga, tai chi, and piloxing. Dawn prioritizes her health, working out regularly and abstaining from alcohol and smoking. With no significant medical history and no known family illnesses, Dawn embodies a healthy lifestyle.

However, in early 2022, Dawn noticed a weakness in her left arm. Having experienced this before and finding relief through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), she sought acupuncture treatment. Despite her hopes, the weakness persisted, although it wasn't painful. Dawn's husband, Rick, also noticed subtle changes in her walking, prompting concerns that went beyond mere fatigue.

After two days of persistent symptoms, Rick made the decision to take Dawn to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for further evaluation. The medical team initially viewed Dawn as an unlikely candidate for stroke due to her age, active lifestyle, and lack of medical history. However, as her symptoms persisted, a series of tests, including MRI and CT scans, were conducted. The results revealed that Dawn had indeed experienced an ischemic stroke affecting the right side of her brain, impacting the control and coordination of her left side.

Despite still being able to walk, albeit slowly, Dawn was deemed at high risk for falls and was restricted from moving freely. This sudden loss of independence was immensely frustrating for Dawn, who had always prided herself on her self-sufficiency. The barrage of tests and medical interventions added to her sense of exhaustion and exasperation, as she grappled with the reality of her condition.

Throughout this challenging journey, Dawn remained fully conscious and cooperative, undergoing numerous tests as doctors worked tirelessly to determine the underlying cause of her stroke and prevent a recurrence. The constant monitoring and restrictions on her mobility left Dawn feeling drained and longing for the independence she once took for granted.

Following a thorough diagnosis, Dawn's medical team identified Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) as the likely cause of her stroke—a condition characterized by abnormal blood clotting due to an autoimmune disorder. Dawn's hospital stay lasted two weeks, after which she was transferred to Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital for rehabilitation.

Adapting to the rehabilitation process was challenging for Dawn. She experienced weight loss and homesickness, struggling to adjust to the unfamiliar routines of recovery. However, the supportive and encouraging therapists at the facility played a crucial role in her progress. Despite initial difficulties, Dawn began to regain her independence and was eventually discharged from the hospital.

Returning home marked a significant milestone for Dawn. While she was able to resume tasks like housekeeping, lingering concerns about her health and safety persisted. She found herself grappling with diminished self-confidence, unsure of what the future held. Nevertheless, the unwavering support of her friends and family buoyed her spirits.

To date, Dawn continues to take medication, including blood thinners and mild cholesterol medication, to prevent blood clots and manage her condition. She remains grateful for the kindness and companionship of her loved ones, whose presence and encouragement have been instrumental in her ongoing recovery journey.

Although Dawn's stroke brought about limitations in her physical abilities, she remains determined to push forward in her recovery journey. High-impact exercises and tasks requiring both hands are now off-limits, prompting Dawn to adjust her lifestyle accordingly. However, she holds onto a mantra that keeps her motivated:

"Don’t give up, keep trying, it gets better each time."

One positive outcome of Dawn's journey is the strengthened bond within her family. Her husband and children now prioritize quality time together, cherishing moments of togetherness. Dawn takes pride in her children's growing independence, as they've learned essential life skills like doing laundry and tidying up their own space, easing her worries about their well-being.

Dawn's path to discovering Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) began unexpectedly during a resistance band class through the Healthy 365 app. Spotting a participant wearing an SNSA T-shirt piqued her curiosity, leading her to research and subsequently join SNSA as a member. Participating in SNSA's "Let’s Get Fit" programme was just the beginning.

As time progressed, Dawn found herself deeply engaged with SNSA's community. She was invited to join "The Soaring Cranes," a martial arts performance class, which provided both physical activity and social connection. Dawn embraced this opportunity, culminating in performances at significant events like the NNI Stroke Awareness Day 2023 and Stepping Out for Stroke (SOFS) 2023.

Today, Dawn is actively involved in SNSA's programmes, surrounded by like-minded individuals and fellow stroke survivors. She finds solace and inspiration in listening to their stories, fostering a sense of camaraderie and resilience within the SNSA community.


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