Read more stories from the Browning family.

1. Please share a little about how you felt when you first realised your loved one had had a stroke?

Initially it was shock, with my niece being so young it’s not the sort of news you expect to receive, and also with being half way round the world I felt entirely helpless in that there wasn’t much we could do to help and support her and the family.  I was so upset and sad for my niece in that she was having to deal with this at such a young age, with her life ahead of her, suppose I felt it was unfair.

2. What questions, worries or concerns did you have at that time?

Once I knew she was stable and “ok”, and that the response to her stroke was quick, the worries moved over to what caused this, why at such a young age, was there any long term impact on her health, was there something else going on and became anxious about whether this could happen to her again. The only experience I had of stroke prior to this was with older people and seeing the physical impact and rehabilitation did worry me. I’d not known anyone younger who’d had a stroke.

3.What information and resources did you received that helped you understand more about Stroke?

Fortunately with my sister being in the medical profession and very knowledgeable, the information she shared was understandable and reassuring in that we knew what the steps being taken were and what to expect. She kept us so well informed - perhaps ended up being another job in itself for her. Not every family will have a professional family member to guide them through, so without this I think we would have had more uncertainty and confusion over how my niece was and how she would be in the future. I did read up on the Stroke Foundation resources and that helped to reinforce what my sister had shared with us.

4.What challenges did your loved one face during their stroke recovery?

Surgery required for associated heart problem, tiredness and exhaustion (managing this continues to be an ongoing challenge for my niece), mental health challenges, unable to complete her studies to plan, had to get extended time at school which no doubt added pressure. Coming to terms with it in itself will have been a challenge for her as well.

5. Did you reach out for support and talk to others about your loved one having a stroke and was it helpful?

Talked to close friends about it, and chatted through concerns about my niece but also the family. Not being close made it hard to be able to support my sister and family, who were all amazing at supporting my niece, but perhaps themselves needed some more support, during and post the stroke.

6. What advice would you give someone else about helping and supporting their loved ones in their stroke recovery?

The lived experiences of others I’m sure would help those recovering understand more about what to expect, and how to manage things in the right way.

From what I saw of the support my sister and her family gave my niece, you have to listen to the person and give them the space to manage their own recovery, whilst guiding them through it and being there when they need it.

Just because you can’t physically see the impact of the stroke don’t assume everything is ok. Whilst my niece looked ok (i.e. no paralysis or physical signs), her tiredness and exhaustion has been hard to manage and as a young adult wanting to liver her life this has been a hard balance – for her and her parents.

It takes time, don’t expect it to be a quick fix, recovery is quite a journey and you’ll need people around you to keep supporting the person recovering and the families supporting them.

7. We’re you aware of signs of stroke before your loved one had their stroke?


8. How did the stroke affect other family members?

Worry, stress, anxiety of what might happen next. Perhaps a contributing factor to “burnout” for my sister coping with a busy family household, full time job, and caring for her eldest.

There were also some medical checks the whole family had to go through for possible related hereditary related health issues. Again that then was a worry for the whole family, and reassurance to the other children was needed at this time as well.  

9. What information, resources and or supports do you think could have helped you at this time?

Listening and hearing my Niece’s lived experience podcasts helped -  both to understand the challenges she faced but also to understand and see how well she was coping with it.  Not sure I needed anything more due to the great insights my sister and Niece gave and shared.

10.What is the biggest win and positive outcome you have seen your loved one achieve since they had their stroke, that you would share with others who have had a stroke to give inspire them  and give them hope for the future?

My Niece has been inspirational! She turned this experience into something positive- she organised a Fundraiser for the Stroke Foundation with all the family getting involved, she’s done podcasts/radio interviews sharing her experience, she’s got involved in the Stroke foundation work and is sharing her lived experience which will help others. She’s become a true advocate for the stroke foundation and raising the awareness and giving back to help others.

She also finished her studies and graduated to become a nurse, got her first job and home with her boyfriend...stroke didn’t stop her, it perhaps just paused and slowed things down for her for a while.

Read other stories in this series: