10 Aug Annie Lawson | National Stroke Week
Annie Lawson urges others to act F.A.S.T. at the onset of stroke symptoms
Princetown’s Annie Lawson was only 49 when she suffered a stroke. Her advice to others is to get problems investigated. “Go and get checked,” Annie urges.
In the leadup to her stroke, which occurred in October 2020, Annie had experienced what she refers to as a “wobbly problem,” including unsteadiness on her feet. In addition, she had been dropping things out of her hands. With the benefit of hindsight, she knows that these could have been signs of what was to come. About a month before the stroke, Annie had a fall at work and “faceplanted”. Husband Jamie took her to Timboon Healthcare where the locum was sure Annie had suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack), the ambulance drivers who transferred her to the Warrnambool hospital concurred.
In Warrnambool Annie had a CT scan, but as there was no clot visible they didn’t do an MRI. This all happened during the COVID lockdowns with extensive restrictions, so when Annie was in Warrnambool hospital, Jamie was unable to be with her.
Annie was sent home from Warrnambool and advised to see her doctor. She was then having TIAs daily varying from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. TIAs are a brief stroke-like attack, which don’t cause permanent damage. However, a TIA can be a warning sign of a future stroke. They are usually caused by blood clots which have travelled to the blood vessels supplying oxygen in the brain, they can also be caused by pieces of fatty material or air bubbles.
After the stroke, Annie was sent by ambulance to Warrnambool. At Warrnambool they did a CT scan and didn’t find a clot, but this time they did an MRI. The MRI revealed a clot and Annie was transferred to the Royal Melbourne Hospital via helicopter.
Prior to the stroke, Annie was an active woman, enjoying regular walks on the Timboon Rail Trail. Now Annie is reliant on a wheelchair, having lost the use of her dominant right-hand side.
Annie is now on blood thinners to prevent a clot occurring, but everything is a balancing act. So, while blood thinners can help avoid clots and blockages, they can also increase the risk of bleeding. Through investigation including MRI and CT scans it was determined that Annie has Moyamoya Disease – which is a rare, progressive condition caused by a slow and continuous narrowing of the main arteries to the brain. This will likely result in a fatal brain bleed. Revascularisation surgery may help people with Moyamoya, however they won’t do this operation after a patient has had a stroke.
Home modifications were required before Annie could be transitioned from hospital back to her Princetown home, where she lives with husband Jamie, and the youngest of her four children Liamm. Those modifications included ramp access and a new bathroom. Further works need to be done to provide improved access to the home for Annie.
Annie has been able to access some support via the NDIS and is working together with TDHS to access more community services. Jamie and his mother Yvonne Lawson provide home assistance to Annie.
Annie is on the long road to recovery. At the time of her stroke, Annie was unable to speak, in fact specialists at the Royal Melbourne thought she may not speak again. Around two weeks after the stroke Annie was beginning to speak again. She suffers short-term memory loss. Initially, Annie also had long-term memory loss, but over time and after working with a speech therapist, her long-term memory has returned. Annie has also undergone extensive physiotherapy, initially three times a week, and continues now with twice weekly visits to The Neuro Collective in Warrnambool. Son Nathan and his girlfriend Jayde arrange transport for Annie to get to Warrnambool for physio.
Annie is still working towards further recovery and is looking forward to a visit this week to Barwon Health in Geelong – one of eight healthcare networks providing SENSe therapy. SENSe therapy (Study of the Effectiveness of Neurorehabilitation on Sensation) has been developed by researchers at La Trobe University and is helping stroke survivors improve their ability to undertake tasks such as cooking, dressing, eating and driving. SENSe is a six-week specialised rehabilitation program which helps people regain a sense of touch. Loss of sense of touch occurs in about 50% of stroke survivors. The approach is designed to enhance existing connections in the brain and create new ones by using specially designed training strategies
Now, Annie makes the most of her family time, and spends time reading books and watching TV, but looks forward to expanding her activities as a result of the SENSe therapy.
Annie and Jamie advise others to get things checked. Had further investigation been done when the TIAs started, she may have been placed on medication to prevent clots from forming and avoided a life-changing stroke.
National Stroke Week
During National Stroke Week 2022, we are celebrating the precious moments that you or your loved ones can continue to enjoy during and after your recovery.
Help others to keep enjoying precious moments too by sharing the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) signs of stroke message with your family and friends.
If you or someone you know experiences the signs of stroke, no matter how long they last, call triple zero (000) immediately.
How do you know if someone is having a stroke? Think… F.A.S.T.
The Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T. test as an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke. Using the F.A.S.T. test involves asking these simple questions:
- Face Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
- Arms Can they lift both arms?
- Speech Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
- Time Is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.