Over breakfast one morning in 2001, Commonwealth Games gold medalist swimmer Rebecca Perrott suddenly had trouble speaking clearly. “By the time [Dad and I] got to A&E, I was mostly OK,” she says. After some neurological tests, she was scheduled for another appointment with a neurologist a couple of weeks later and an MRI brain scan.
“The MRI showed that something had happened recently in my brain, and also that there had been other episodes in the past.” Rebecca had suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), or mini stroke.
TIAs occur when there is a blockage of blood flow to part of the brain.
Symptoms include sudden weakness and numbness of the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body; blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes; difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying, and dizziness, loss of balance or difficulty controlling movements.
With a TIA, symptoms disappear within 24 hours, and often in less than an hour. As Rebecca was a 39-year-old healthy person with no family history of stroke, doctors were confounded by her TIA. And nearly 10 years on, she hasn't had another.
Her message to others is to take any stroke-like symptoms very seriously. “Seek medical attention immediately and never ignore the symptoms of a TIA even if you recover very quickly afterwards. It might be a warning of a future severe stroke, which could be prevented with treatment,” she says.
- Rebecca takes low-dose aspirin, and continues to live a healthy lifestyle – she doesn’t smoke, exercises regularly and has a healthy diet.
The Stroke Foundation of New Zealand reports that the average risk of having a stroke in the first week after a TIA is more than 10 per cent, and 20 per cent within three months. The Foundation advises that the majority of strokes are preventable, so it’s important to have any stroke-like incident assessed by a doctor.
“The sooner a doctor is able to confirm whether it is a TIA, the sooner you can start on preventative treatment,” says Rebecca.Source: Stroke Foundation of New Zealand
Did you know? Every day, 21 New Zealanders have a stroke.