Maile Fameitau's Story

Maile Fameitau's story

Stroke F.A.S.T. Campaign 2024



It began as an ordinary day at work for Maile Fameitau, a Hawke's Bay-based grandmother of Tongan heritage. But at some point, during the day Maile experienced the first signs that something wasn't right. 



 "My body started to go numb; it started from my fingers. The numbness came right up, just one side. The next minute the other side." 


With little idea what was happening to her, Maile stood up to see if things got any worse.


Shortly afterwards, her husband Viliami Fameitau received a call from Maile's workmates to say his wife had been rushed to hospital.


Maile had suffered a stroke.


Viliami was completely unprepared for the news. "The first time my wife suffered from a stroke I did not understand it as her sickness was new to me."  


"After surgery she was discharged and sent home, but she still experienced some problems. She sometimes suddenly told me her hand was numb. I started to be able to tell and knew what could happen to my wife." 


Maile has since suffered two more strokes, and now knows only too well that swift action can be life-saving. 


She recalls being at home one morning with her nephew, Pea 'Ofanoa, when she felt the familiar warning signs. 


"He was in the sitting room and I was in the bedroom. That's when I started - the same signs, the same symptoms. It started with the numbness in my hands, but it was different from the other one. It came to my whole body. I was just trying to walk through the hallway here. Pea was sitting there and I came in but just collapsed. All I could say to him was 'Ring my husband'. "


Viliami was there within four to five minutes.


Maile remembers: "I was still thinking properly but I couldn't talk anymore. Viliami just carried me to the car. I knew everything he was doing but I just couldn't say anything or open my eyes."


"The doctor said to my husband 'Your wife is very, very lucky. If you would be late by two or three minutes, she would be dead in your house.' If I had acted slower, I would be."


"As soon as you feel the signs in your hands, the numbness - especially on your left side - and your speech is starting to get slurred, call 111 straight away," Maile stresses.


The fact Maile has not just survived but continues to live a normal family life is thanks both to her own strength and relentless positivity, and the love and vigilance of her loved ones. Her wellbeing is now very much a multi-generational affair. Every single family member - from her husband, son daughter-in-law to her nephew(s) and grandkids - has learned to recognise the symptoms of a stroke and to act quickly at the very first signs.


As well as the numbness,  Viliami says its important to take note of the mouth. Even if the person is speaking but their mouth has drooped, call 111.


"We are really lucky we are such a tight-knit family and that our children are all close to Mum,"  says daughter-in-law Phoneix. "They all know now that if something is not right with Nana, run and tell somebody. I feel it is so important for us as parents, as children, to educate our children on the possibilities of it happening to their grandparents or even to one of us."


Maile's son, Meliano Fameitau, says his children don't just know the signs of stroke but actively watch for any change in their Nana.


"When they see her just sitting there quietly they're always asking, 'Are you alright Nana? Nana, are you alright?' and they talk and then [if she's] okay, they run away playing. But if she doesn't talk the kids will know there is something wrong." 


"You see the signs, you react as fast as you can. It can be a matter of minutes, worst case scenario a matter of seconds. So the faster you grab the phone, the faster you ring 111. That can make the difference."


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