FAST and family

jill and jade
Jill and Jade.

A Hawera woman will be going to her grand-daughter’s wedding – after a “miracle” recovery from a severe stroke.

Jill Hooper, 69, says a ballpoint pen, urgent action by her husband and emergency services, and the love of her family helped her survive.

“I’ve been called the ‘miracle girl’, and it really was a miracle,” Jill said.

Read more about Jill in this NZ Herald article.

Jill, a much-loved figure in Hawera, was in her kitchen making lunch when her left arm went weak, and she couldn’t stand up. Her husband Irwin also saw her mouth was drooping on one side.

Irwin immediately realised it was a stroke because the couple had a Stroke Foundation pen which contained the stroke awareness FAST message - Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 111.

So Irwin did just that – he called an ambulance and Jill was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and given clot-dissolving medication. She was then flown to Auckland Hospital for a clot retrieval process.

Even so, Jill was still in a very serious condition. “My family was told to say goodbye just in case – but they refused to say goodbye,” she said.

One of the family members at Jill’s bedside was grand-daughter Jade, who’d just got engaged to partner Shane.

“I said to her, ‘You can’t die on us Nana, you’ve got a wedding to go to,’” Jade said.

“We’d got to ICU and I didn’t think I would be able to see her, I was bawling my eyes out. It was really hard to see her with tubes coming out of her and sedated.

“At first the specialists thought the left hemisphere of her brain might have died. They said they had a choice of option of operating or Nana becoming a vegetable. They told us to prepare for the worst.”

While Jill was unconscious, Jade’s brother played her some of her favourite music, and Jill started moving her arms and legs.

Incredibly, the next day Jill was sitting up in bed and talking.

“I had a walker for a day and a half then I threw it away,” she says.

FAST pen - Stroke Foundation NZ

Jill spent a week in hospital but says she’s now back to normal.

“The love and support of family was crucial,” Jill says.

Also crucial was the couple knowing FAST. Hospital treatment could only able to be carried out because Irwin had acted so quickly.

“We had the pen, and we’d seen the TV ads, so I knew what to do,” Irwin said.

Jill says she’s had blood pressure problems, but it was irregular heartbeat that caused the stroke. Now she’s on blood-thinning medication.

“If they hadn’t known FAST, Jill might not be going to Jade’s wedding,” Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian said.

“That would have been a tragedy, and just shows that knowing FAST is the best way to help a member of your family – or yourself – recover from stroke.”

This year’s FAST campaign begins today, with one slight twist. This year, the T stands for Take action, a reminder that calling 111 immediately is essential.

“Luckily Irwin took action and helped save Jill,” said Mark Vivian. “Wherever you live, the quicker you get to hospital, the better your chance of recovery.”

FAST is a joint campaign between the Stroke Foundation, Ministry of Health, and Health Promotion Agency.

The campaign follows recent research by Otago University predicting a sharp rise in stroke cases over the next decade, unless better prevention measures are put in place.

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