Lisa Donovan with daughters Sarah and Charlie.   ROK110711skid3
Lisa Donovan with daughters Sarah and Charlie. ROK110711skid3 Sharyn O'Neill

Healthy mother's unsuspecting life-threatening condition

I KNOW most of you are used to reading my column and laughing (hopefully), but this week I'd like to talk about something more serious.

I know that with my quick wit, flair for the written word, and unparalleled humility, it's hard for you to imagine that last year I had three strokes.

And because when you're down, life likes to draw the cricket bat back and swing again, I also found out I had two unruptured AND inoperable aneurysms in my brain.

That's right folks, Christmas came early for this gal.

And although I could spend these 500 words talking about how unfair it is, and how hard the recovery was (peeing in a bedpan while lying flat should be a nationally recognised talent), I'm instead going to give you the warning signs that I experienced.

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See, my strokes weren't health related. Mine were called VAD strokes, which stands for vertebral artery dissection.

Sounds like something Hannibal Lecter would do, doesn't it?

These strokes happen when the inside of the arteries begin to tear, which causes clots, which causes strokes.

The aneurysms were just the bonus prizes. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and spin the Wheel of Life, where you too could win your very own aneurysms!

In the days before the strokes, I felt light-headed and had pain in my neck and shoulder that wasn't going away.

I was taking Nurofen daily just to make it manageable.

Then the day of the strokes my blood pressure, which is normally always good, was very high.

Lisa Donovan stroke
Lisa Donovan stroke contributed

By the time I reached the hospital it was around 190/120 ... bad, I know, but I sat in the emergency room for two hours, school pick-up time came, and I left.

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That night, I had the first stroke. I woke up with the pain in my neck now in the back of my skull.

Then a massive wave of nausea hit and as I tried to make it to the bathroom, I fell down and the left side of my face went, not numb like they say, but cold ... very cold.

I was able to call an ambulance and by the time they got there my speech sounded as if I was drunk.

After arriving at the hospital, all hell broke loose.

A CT scan and MRI confirmed the strokes and found the aneurysms.

I also had vertigo and vomiting so badly (for 24 hours, I might add) that I was wishing for the light at the end of the tunnel, but all I got was the light at the nursing station as the staff ate their sandwiches and chatted about their day.

Not a good closing scene, I thought.

It's taken me over a year to fully recover.

The silver lining is my deep appreciation for life and my family.

Plus, I can always blame my strokes when I'm forgetful about anything.

So, if you've experienced or are experiencing any of those symptoms, please see your doctor immediately.

I was one of the lucky ones.


Lisa Donovan is an American-born Rockhampton mother who writes a weekly column for The Morning Bulletin called "A Yank in Oz".