Young stroke survivor shares story in hopes of helping others | CBC News

Ten years after suffering a stroke, Angela Wright is proving that it’s possible to have a full and active life as she helps other young stroke survivors move forward. 

Wright was 38 years old when she woke up with a terrible headache while on a fishing trip with friends. 

“I honestly thought, we were up late around the campfire, probably a bottle or two passed around, this is just a hangover,” she told CBC News.

Wright, now 48, had suffered a minor stroke, which is not uncommon for people under the age of 60. 

Young stroke patients

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says each year in Canada, 62,000 strokes occur, with 20 per cent of those happening to people under the age of 60.

Strokes are a leading cause of death in Canada and a major cause of disability. And that was what Wright was facing when her situation worsened while being transferred to Vancouver General Hospital for treatment.

She suffered a brain hemorrhage.

“Instead of just dealing with probably a fairly minor stroke, what they were dealing with now was emergency brain surgery and a massive brain hemorrhage.”

100 days in hospital

Wright spent more than 100 days in hospital and doctors were not optimistic about her recovery.

“There was a doctor there that was talking to my mom and step-dad saying, ‘You guys need to figure this out, things are different now,'” she said.

“‘Your daughter is never going to walk again, she’ll never live independently, and she’ll never hold down a job.'”

Over the past 10 years Wright has fought against that prognosis, re-learning how to walk and eventually travelling the world. 

Part of her struggle though, she said, was finding peer support and programs to help her. The majority of stroke survivors are older patients and she said many resources are geared toward them.

She helped develop a program to help others in her situation called Young Stroke Survivors Learn, Engage and Achieve Potential, which has been adopted by the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia.

It includes services and resources to address the specific priorities for working-age stroke survivors so they can learn, adapt, and set goals for active and connected lives.

Wright is also hopeful about medical advances like those being developed by stroke neurologist Dr. Jaskiran Brar at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“I’m always looking at why the stroke happens so I can prevent it,” Brar said.

Brar is testing a technology that monitors patients hearts for years at a time in order to prevent second strokes in people like Wright. 

“Once you’ve had one stroke, you really don’t want to have a second stroke, because recovery from a second stroke might not be as great as your first stroke,” she said.

Wright says she will continue to advocate for more treatment options like these for young stroke patients.

In the meantime, she says helping others has played a role in her own recovery.

“It’s been strangely and ironically cathartic to help other people that are going through it.”

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