"It can strike anyone, no matter how good you are."
Arrowtown-based Liz Palmer has lived a life with many adventures.
She liked to keep busy, and she has been fit and healthy throughout her life. She and her husband David enjoyed travelling overseas and had many successful business endeavours, including founding the iconic Remarkable Sweet Shop with their son, Jonathan.
But Liz's whole life changed in January 2022. She was on holiday in Nelson when she started feeling unwell.
“My leg and my arm went very heavy," Liz remembers. "I could walk. I had a look in the mirror to see if my face was affected -- and no, it was okay. ”
Liz and David were planning on getting lunch out, but due to her "funny turn", they decided to go to the doctor first. Instead of the quick visit they anticipated, the doctor told Liz that she had likely experienced a TIA and sent her straight to hospital.
A TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack) is a kind of stroke that only lasts for a short amount of time. A TIA is very serious, as more than 1 in 12 people will have a stroke within a week of experiencing a TIA. Because of this, TIAs are sometimes referred to as warning strokes.
While at the hospital, Liz had a series of TIAs, and then went into cardiac arrest. After an MRI, it was confirmed Liz also had a stroke. Her stroke kept progressing, resulting in the right side of her body being completely paralysed.
Liz was transferred to Invercargill to start an intensive course of rehabilitation, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy. This "intense bootcamp" paid off, as when she was discharged 72 days later, she had regained some control of her right side and was able to walk again with the help of a frame.
“It's now a matter of her building up her stamina and building up her strength, ” David says.
While Liz has seen great success with her physiotherapy and now can walk with a stick, David decided to try something unconventional to further support Liz's mobility. In February 2023, he bought 'Molly', a restored 1925 Morris Cowley Roadster. Molly has quickly become an integral part of the couple's lives, helping Liz to get out and about and provide a sense of normalcy.
“The car is very good for me, because most of the time, I feel woozy,” Liz explains. "But when I get in the car and the wind's blowing, I feel normal."
David's support and Liz's tenacious attitude have been instrumental in Liz continuing the lifelong journey of stroke recovery.
"Lizzie and David are a great example of stroke recovery, showing determination and teamwork," says Judith.
Judith is the Community Stroke Advisor who has been working with Liz since March 2022. "David is just as much a part of Lizzie's stroke recovery as those "formal" supports".
To continue to support Liz's recovery, David knows the importance of looking after himself. "The professionals will tell us that it's important for me to keep my fitness level up, but if something happened to me, we would both have to move into an old folks' home," he says. "So that's something that probably worries us both."
Despite these concerns, Liz and David are trying not to let anything hold them back from living life to the fullest. They've recently started travelling again, starting with trips to Christchurch and out to Kaikōura.
“We're actually toying with the idea as to whether or not we could rent a campervan," David says.
"Who knows what's next?"
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