Johnny & Lizzie


Stroke F.A.S.T. Campaign 2024


Kerikeri couple Johnny and Lizzie were sitting outside a local eatery when Johnny said he wasn't feeling too good.  The symptoms - headache, slurred speech, feeling he was going to faint - rang alarm bells for Lizzie, who works with post-stroke patients. 



When Johnny and partner Lizzie headed out for a bite to eat, they couldn't possibly have imagined how the day would unfold.

The Kerikeri couple were sitting outside the eatery waiting for their food to arrive when Johnny started to feel unwell.

"I was sitting there with my hand on my head, just having a slight headache. And my speech was slightly slurred. I was trying to think through the whole situation, as to how well I was talking. I told my partner after a little bit 'I am just going to go down to the ground; don't worry about it. Don't be alarmed.' I felt like I was going to faint. So, I went down, then tried to get myself up but I knew my balance was out."

He was helped to the car, and the pair immediately headed to hospital. Johnny started to doze off, but Lizzie told him "Don't fall asleep!". She was aware of the F.A.S.T. mnemonic to help recognise the signs of stroke - Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Take action & call 111. All thanks to having seen the F.A.S.T. fridge magnets and her work caring for elderly stroke survivors. Johnny replied "Why? Is it one of those?" "Yes" she confirmed. "It's one of those." 

What followed was a misdiagnosis that meant the couple was losing precious time. At the hospital, they were told Johnny was too young for it to be a stroke; it must be vertigo. The couple were sent home. Lizzie wasn't sure Johnny was 'fine', as the doctor had assured them. But then she told herself, "I'm not a doctor - let it go."

However, by the next day Johnny's situation hadn't improved. So, with the help of the wider family, the couple made the 90-minute car trip to Whangārei hospital. When they arrived, Johnny felt 'massive relief.'

"There was a lady who had come out with a wheelchair, and as she saw me, she freaked out and was like 'Sorry I can't push you!' And I was like 'No, no - it's alright.' And that's the last thing I remember."

Johnny was eventually diagnosed with a cerebellar infarct (or cerebellar stroke) - a type of stroke that impacts the back of the brain. Outcomes include reduced oxygen delivery, which results in loss of motor and balance control.

He was admitted to Whangārei hospital on 21 January 2023 and transferred to Auckland hospital for neurosurgery. He was transferred back to Whangārei and was discharged two weeks later.

Johnny is now in Lizzie's full-time care. The outcome could have been even worse had Lizzie not recognised the signs of stroke from the outset. She says the importance of swift action can't be underestimated.

"The biggest thing was time. Time, time, time. You've got to get it sorted."