Louise Bonfield, 26, from Waltham Cross, is supporting the Stroke Association’s East of England Hidden Project, after having a devastating stroke at the age of 19, whilst 37 weeks pregnant with her daughter Chloe.
Louise was staying at her parents’ house after suffering from an extremely painful headache. Louise then begun to feel a strange sensation through her arm, and her leg started to move uncontrollably.
Louise explains: “I knew something was really wrong, and being 37 weeks pregnant, I naturally thought it had to be something to with my pregnancy. My parents helped to get me downstairs and my mum called for an ambulance. Paramedics thought it was the baby on my nerve and suggested I sit in the bath. This is when I really began to lose control of my arm and leg, and my face started to drop. From here I don’t remember much of what happened.”
Louise was going in and out of consciousness and was taken to Harlow Hospital where she stayed on the Intensive Care Unit.
Louise’s mum Maggie said: “Because Louise was pregnant, she couldn’t be treated for her stroke. Thankfully, her waters broke the next day and she gave birth to Chloe. It was all so frightening; no parent should go through what should be the most precious days of their new born child’s life the way Louise did.”
In total Louise was in 2 comas, had four operations, and spent 7 months in hospital. Louise left hospital with one sided weakness, little speech and difficulty with reading and writing. Maggie had to step in to care for not only Louise, but her new born granddaughter Chloe.
Louise is now an active volunteer for the Stroke Association, sharing her experiences with other stroke survivors and offering a helping hand.
Louise is one of the stroke survivors who will be the subject of a powerful new photography exhibition called the Hidden Project, which will be displayed High House Production Park this month. The group of stroke survivors have posed to highlight the devastating effects of stroke, using the colour purple to depict how each individual has been affected differently.
Louise adds: “As four working age stroke survivors, we wanted to make an impact to the public to show that whilst we’ve had our strokes, and we have different hidden effects following our strokes, together we can conquer stroke. I hope that from this project, more people realise that stroke can happen in instant, but the effects can last a lifetime. Although I may look well and fine, I have a daily battle with the effects of my stroke.”
“My world came crashing down when I had my stroke, I was supposed to be a mum for Chloe, and I couldn’t be there for her. I soon realised that I won’t let my stroke hold me back; I still needed to bring Chloe up, and live my life to the fullest. Having to learn to wash, dress and do all the simple mum tasks with Chloe with a weak left hand and leg was really hard – but I was determined to keep going, not only for me, but for Chloe.”
Tracy Groves, Regional Information Officer for the Stroke Association in the East of England said: “I am so proud of my team of volunteers for being part of this special creation. On a daily basis I hear how heart breaking it is for stroke survivor’s hidden effects to be ignored.
“Through these powerful images, we hope to raise awareness of stroke across the East of England. A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off and brain cells are damaged or die. It can happen out of the blue and be very frightening. Stroke is one of greatest health challenges of our time, with 152,000 strokes happening in the UK every year, and being the leading cause of adult disability in the UK.
“Stroke survivors can struggle with everyday tasks like making a cup of tea, taking a shower or reading the paper. Even talking or communicating with friends and family can be a challenge. A stroke can affect people’s confidence as many survivors feel embarrassed when they can’t remember things or they forget words, or because of the physical effects of their stroke.
“We’re there every step of the way helping survivors and their families deal with the practical and emotional impacts of stroke. We believe in life after stroke and value each person’s victories on the road to recovery.”
The images of Louise and Chloe will be showcased at the Thurrock Stroke Art Exhibition on Tuesday 18 August from 2pm until 6pm at High House Production Park, Vellacott Close, Essex.
For more information about stroke, please visit www.stroke.org.uk or contact our helpline on 0303 303 3100.
A stroke is a brain attack which happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain. There are around 152,000 strokes in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are over 1.2 million people in the UK living with the effects of stroke.
Stroke Association is a charity. We believe in life after stroke and together we can conquer stroke. We work directly with stroke survivors and their families and carers, with health and social care professionals and with scientists and researchers. We campaign to improve stroke care and support people to make the best recovery they can. We fund research to develop new treatments and ways of preventing stroke. The Stroke Helpline (0303 303 3100) provides information and support on stroke. More information can be found at www.stroke.org.uk