Read more stories from the Browning family.

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

The night our daughter had her stroke will be forever remembered as a night of shock as I looked in her eyes and all I could see was complete fear and emotion. She had lost her ability to find and express her words and speak to us in a way that made any sense at all. She could answer our questions and we were able to do the FAST assessment.

My nursing experience came to be a lifesaver that night and her understanding as a student nurse meant we were both terrified but knew what needed to happen. I wasn’t thinking stroke at first as I knew from experience there could be many causes for the signs she was presenting and symptoms, so we knew we had to act quickly and get to hospital. It was over 24-48 hours later after many tests, examinations, and scans that we found out it was a stroke, and it was heartbreaking to hear the news.

So much emotion and having to be strong and reassuring for our daughter, children, and family all at the same time. She was reliant on our love, reassurances and advocating for her as she had no voice of her own to ask, question, and find out more about what the future would hold for her.

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

Every minute and hour that passed we had so many questions, worries and concerns but initially we were seeking reassurances that everything would be okay and life after stroke would be a good outcome for such a young person. 

Would it happen again was what we all wanted to know and what needed to be done to fix the hole in her heart and any risks associated with the heart surgery that would follow? What would be the impact on her future, health, life and career? 

We also had the added worry that all the family had to have heart scans and tests for the same defect, so there was much more to come, as well as finding out our daughter had a blood disorder Von Willebrand’s disease, and we were all advised to be tested. So much was found out from one person’s life changing experience that we all had to explore our own health and wellbeing, it was hard to keep up some days.

There was the added worry of sharing with our other children who were young teenagers at the time and our family, friends and our extended support network and communities who all wanted to help and offer kindness and support.

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

I did a great deal of research while I was sitting at the bedside and when I couldn’t sleep at night. The “My Stroke Journey” booklet was helpful but I was exhausted so left it to one side until we were home and I had more time to absorb everything. Most of the information wasn’t really relevant to such a young person which had its own challenges without support or any additional services after our daughter was discharged home. We were pretty much alone on the recovery journey and had to find our own way to support our family.

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

The challenges were very much hidden to everyone else who thought once our daughter was home, she looked well, eventually went back to study, work and socialising. The hidden challenges were emotional, physical, and cognitive fatigue and mental health challenges. Most people didn’t really understand the impacts of young stroke and what recovery or life after a stroke looked like so many assumptions were made that everything was back to normal and okay.

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

I leaned on my husband constantly and we went into a bubble for a long time trying to get life back on track and support our daughter and other children to find their life and routines again. We connected with the Young Stroke Community and volunteered with the Lived Experience Working Group for the Young Stroke Project which was the first time we shared our lived experience as a family and our daughter as a young stroke survivor. The peer support and connection was so helpful during the time that followed as people really understood the journey, we were all on and the challenges faced. genyus network have also been a safe space to meet other support crew and I am a supporter and member now. I wish I had reached out earlier to family, friends and workplace as this could have prevented my burnout a year after our daughter’s stroke. 

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

I have since had support for my own recovery from burnout and I would recommend to others contacting StrokeLine could be really beneficial to finding the right help, support, services, communities and peers who can walk alongside you during difficult times.

7. Were you aware of the signs of stroke before your loved one had their stroke? 

Luckily yes, we were which meant we didn’t hesitate to call for help and an ambulance.

8. How did the stroke affect other family members? 

It was a very stressful, uncertain, worrying and emotional time for us all from the minute it happened to the days, weeks, months and years that followed. There were good days and bad days but taking time to talk together, rest, reset and recover was important for our daughter and us all. We liked fundraising and volunteering to give back to the stroke community and our daughter always wanted to turn a negative into a positive. We learnt to support our daughter through her recovery journey through meeting her where she was at each day or as she faced new challenges, she inspired us all to keep striving forwards and staying positive.

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

Young stroke resources, Telehealth service providers who work with young people and their families after stroke, peer support connection and of course ongoing services and outreach for a supported recovery.

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?

The biggest win has been seeing our daughter’s strength, commitment, bravery, resilience and determination to continue her nursing studies and graduate. She has travelled solo and with friends, worked in the paediatric disability sector and experienced nursing in rural and remote WA.

Seeing her share her story and lived experience of stroke to help and support others has been a supportive experience and the experiences she has embraced to raise awareness have been something that has shaped her and grown her person and a nurse.

Securing her graduate program and first nursing position in an area of healthcare she is passionate about has been a highlight. Seeing the joy, relief, and elation in your children’s eyes when they see a dream realised and reach their goals despite the setbacks and challenges is something you treasure for a lifetime. So proud!

Our daughter having a stroke certainly changed our outlook on life as once again we were reminded how precious life and health really are and everything can change in a moment. We understand more than ever that although her stroke was not preventable, taking care of our mental and physical health and overall wellbeing is so important. We all continue to be grateful for each day together, embrace life, take those trips, embrace adventures and opportunities that come our way especially if it means chasing your dreams!

Read other stories in this series: