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Stroke Just Before My Wedding: Ann'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.

Ann Kennedy, a mother of two named Ammar and Yasmin, was a businesswoman who owned two Nasi Padang stalls. Juggling two thriving businesses posed its challenges, particularly in managing manpower issues, which often resulted in significant stress for Ann. Her hectic schedule leaves little time for proper meals, contributing to heightened stress levels and leading to signs of insomnia.

In addition to her busy business schedule, Ann was also preparing for her upcoming wedding. Being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she was determined to ensure that her wedding day was flawless. Taking on the role of a wedding planner herself, Ann relied on her previous experience in event planning. Despite her fiancé Paul Kennedy's frequent business trips, Ann decided against hiring a wedding planner, opting instead to personally oversee every aspect of the preparations.

However, amid the heavy responsibilities and commitments that Ann has on her plate, signs of underlying health issues began to surface. Ann started experiencing heaviness in her neck, a subtle yet concerning symptom that prompted her family to suggest it could be related to high blood pressure (BP). Taking heed of this advice, Ann visited a General Practitioner (GP), only to discover that her BP was alarmingly high at 170. The GP prescribed medication and scheduled a follow-up appointment for the subsequent month.

Despite starting the prescribed medication, Ann's hectic schedule led her to miss the follow-up appointment, inadvertently leading her to discontinue the medication. This decision, although unintended, would soon have significant ramifications for Ann's health journey.

Just like any ordinary day, on the evening of July 17, 2019, during a dinner date with her fiancé at an Indian restaurant, Ann's life took a dramatic turn. What initially seemed like a slight weakness in her right hand quickly escalated. Her hand repeatedly slipped off the table, accompanied by an inability to speak and a peculiar sensation of her mouth being sealed shut. In that moment, Ann felt the world around her slowing down, her body growing weaker, akin to a slow-motion nightmare. Unbeknownst to her, Ann was experiencing a stroke, a condition she had no prior knowledge of. It was her fiancé Paul who recognized the severity of the situation and quickly called for an ambulance. Despite being conscious, Ann found herself paralyzed and unable to communicate with the paramedics during the ambulance ride to the hospital. Even in such a critical situation, all Ann could think about was her businesses and who would manage her stalls in her absence.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Ann lost consciousness. She was diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke on the left side of her brain, affecting the right side of her body. The next day, Ann regained consciousness but was unable to move, speak, or feel sensations in parts of her body. Hospitalized for three months, she grappled with confusion and regret, particularly for missing a crucial GP appointment that might have potentially prevented the stroke.

Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy played crucial roles in strengthening Ann's motor skills and enhancing her speech. By the 8th day in the hospital, she began to regain momentum and decided to independently use the bathroom, despite feeling heavy. She was determined not to rely on the nurses. Ann found immense comfort in the support of her friends and family, who visited to offer prayers for her recovery.

However, the trauma to her brain led to Foreign Accent Syndrome, causing Ann to speak with a fluent British accent for about a year. Her speech therapist explained that her brain might have mimicked her fiancé's accent, as he was the last person she spoke to before the incident. Despite the novelty of speaking in a different accent, Ann found it amusing.

After being discharged, her son Ammar, who was a Therapist Assistant, continued physiotherapy sessions at home, contributing significantly to her ongoing recovery. Meanwhile, Ann also had to resume her wedding planning amidst her rehabilitation journey.

Reflecting on Ann's rehabilitation journey, her fiancé Paul was initially filled with confusion and questions. "How could this happen to someone so young and in the prime of life? What can I do to support Ann through the recovery journey?" Despite these uncertainties, he found motivation in witnessing quick results, which kept him optimistic and committed to their journey of recovery.

On November 22 of that same year, Ann and Paul tied the knot. Ann remembered Paul asking the doctor about her chances of recovery, to which the doctors couldn't provide a definite answer. Despite the uncertainty, Paul chose to marry Ann, a decision that deeply touched her.

When asked about his steadfast support, Paul explained,

"Initially, I was preoccupied with Ann’s serious condition and ensuring she received the medical care she needed. Then, within 3-4 days, I witnessed remarkable recovery and improvement to the point that after two months, Ann’s key attributes had mainly recovered, such as speech, basic mobility, passion for life, and sense of humor! This remarkable improvement and her self-motivation naturally kept me motivated, and I never considered changing our wedding plans."

Before her stroke, Ann had managerial experience. However, following the stroke, she experienced a slower processing speed. In the first three years post-stroke, Ann tended to isolate herself due to heightened sensitivity to loud noises, which caused giddiness and palpitations. Some may have misunderstood this as snobbish behavior, but it was actually due to her health challenges.

Fast forward to June 2022, Ann decided to seek out stroke support groups in Singapore to connect with like-minded individuals. This led her to discover Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) on Instagram. After learning about their services, she became a life member, eager to engage with a supportive community.

To date, Ann faces challenges such as numbness on one side of her body, mild aphasia, wobbly knees, and forgetfulness. Despite these hurdles, she remains committed to volunteering with SNSA as a dedicated befriender. Ann also plays a vital role on SNSA's executive committee, focusing on programme support, the young stroke survivor support group, and fundraising efforts.

She credits SNSA staff, Johnson and Zoey, for exposing her to leadership opportunities and hosting certain programmes that have empowered her. Ann also recognizes Poh Choo, a fellow stroke survivor and former vice president of SNSA, as a mentor. Additionally, she appreciates the support, encouragement, and advice given by SNSA’s president, Shamala. She expresses gratitude for the opportunity to give back, which has also inspired her daughter, Yasmin, to become an active volunteer with SNSA.

P.S. Here are some pieces of advice from Paul for those navigating their post-stroke journey:

  • Support Your Partner: Be there for your partner, offering emotional and practical support.

  • Maintain Communication: Continue chatting and sharing information and news, even if your partner cannot respond immediately.

  • Encourage and Motivate: Encourage and motivate your partner to work hard to get better. Support their physical therapy with exercises, writing, etc.

  • Acknowledge Improvements: Celebrate even the smallest improvements, such as speech or movement, and relate these achievements to your partner to keep them motivated.

  • Practice Patience: Understand that recovery takes time. Be patient and cherish the small victories; it's a marathon, not a sprint.

  • Join Support Groups: Consider joining organizations like SNSA, where stroke survivors and caregivers can connect with others who have shared experiences and participate in activities together rather than isolating at home.


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