Chorley woman who suffered two strokes told she had "too much to drink"

A Chorley woman who suffered a stroke said she was told by paramedics she had "too much to drink".

By Emma Downey
Sunday, 19th June 2022, 12:30 pm

Debbie Lee, 36, who has been diagnosed with mild aphasia - a condition which affects a person's speech, was one week from reaching her 30th birthday when she suffered one of two strokes.

Every day she battles with both mental and emotional issues such as short term memory loss, problems swallowing, severe fatigue, anxiety and migraines.

She has also been left partially sighted, resulting in her losing her driver’s license and a two-year battle to get it back.

Debbie Lee, 36, from Chorley was only 29 when she took a stroke, initially dismissed as having too much to drink by paramedics due to her slurred speech - a common side affect of the condition

In a bid to highlight the public misconception of the condition and to mark Aphasia Awareness Month, she has decided to tell her story.

"In 2016 I was gigging in Yorkshire with the band I sing in. We had just finished when I went to sit down and felt rolls of heat coming up my body.

"I thought I had just got too hot on stage and downed a glass of water when I felt a severe pain at the back of the bottom right side of my head.

"I went to get up to go outside for fresh air and upon standing it felt like I was drunk. I can't remember anything else after this.

Debbie was performing at a gig in Yorkshire when she took a stroke

"When I came round my friends noticed that my face had drooped.

"An ambulance was called and when they arrived my face had gone back to normal but I couldn't lift my right arm or leg.

"When I was taken into the ambulance the general understanding was that "I had too much to drink" because I had slurred speech."

A CT scan in hospital came back clear and she was given some fluids for what was then thought to be dehydration.

Debbie wants to highlight more awareness of the condition

"I fell asleep for 10 minutes and when I woke up I said to my partner Marc something didn't feel right.

"I started vomiting what I would describe as frog spawn."

Debbie was then diagnosed with Pulmonary Edema - an abnormal build up of fluid in the lungs which can lead to shortness of breath, and placed on the resus area.

She was monitored on the cardiac care unit for just over two weeks where she suffered another stroke and lost part of her eyesight.

"I was sent for a routine scan for my heart and head and was waiting to leave when a nurse came and told me they had found something and they would have to readmit me as they were able to tell me I had actually had a stroke.

"I was kept for two more days and then referred to a hospital closer to home where I spoke to a stroke specialist and a neurologist who then confirmed I had actually two strokes."

Another battle to fight was with the DVLA who she had to inform of her change in circumstances.

"They wrote to me three to six months later to say they were revoking my license. I wrote to the Stroke Association who were amazing and put me in touch with a guy from Liverpool who had been in a similar situation.

"There is a special circumstances rule about not having another stroke in 12 months which I hadn't."

Two years later after having to travel everywhere via public passport and having taken more lessons and another driving test with an occupational health assistant in the back seat, she finally had her license returned.

"When I had my first stroke I struggled with my emotions. My anxiety was bad for the first year. Everything was heightened and I didn't want to leave the house for fear of it happening again.

"I have right sided balance issues and slight right sided weakness.

"I also had to see a speech therapist for six weeks."

"Now I have bouts of migraines and my fatigue is horrendous.

"Doctors said I am an enigma as they have no idea why this happened as it was a freak occurrence and there's a very minimal chance it could happen to me again."

She added: "There is a general misunderstanding that young people have had too much to drink when they are actually suffering a stroke. That's really quite upsetting.

“Not every disability is visible so anything I can do to make more people aware of this is a good thing.

"If it wasn't for the Stroke Association and other charitable organisations such as Galloways - The Society for the Blind I would have really struggled. More awareness needs putting out there for other people going through this.

"My biggest fear is thinking what if I had left five minutes earlier to drive home? I might not be here today."

The Stroke Association recently commissioned a UK wide survey of over 2,000 people into the effect of the condition.

43 per cent of people in the North West said they couldn't imagine living in a world where they couldn’t communicate.

Juliet Bouverie, Chief Executive of the Stroke Association said: “Aphasia is incredibly common after a stroke, affecting one in three stroke survivors. It robs you of the ability to talk to loved ones and to do everyday tasks such.

"People with aphasia often feel lonely and isolated too, which can impact their relationships.

“But there is hope and the brain can recover and adapt. Stroke survivors with aphasia can make improvements as well as developing alternative ways of communicating.

"Our “Getting Online for People with Aphasia” guide equips you with the skills you need to keep in touch with family and friends and connect with the stroke community.

“It’s also incredibly important for the public to be aware of what aphasia is, the things to look out for and to learn strategies that might help those with aphasia living in their community. We all have a part to play in adapting our communication to be inclusive for all.”

A stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK.

If you or someone you know is living with aphasia CLICK HERE .