A young stroke survivor from Stockton-on-Tees has received a Highly Commended Life After Stroke Award from the Stroke Association, in recognition of her courage after a stroke at just three years old.
Angel Williams, now 10, was born with an atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in the heart, which didn't close the way it should after birth. At the age of two, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, and had cardiac surgery in July 2011 to repair the defects in her heart. However, Angel suffered post-operative cardiac arrest and a stroke. Prior to the stroke Angel was talking well and loved to sing, but afterwards she lost her sight temporarily, was paralysed down her left side and lost her speech.
When she first started nursery at Fairfield Primary School, Angel was still unable to speak or use her left arm and she was unsteady on her feet. To treat her condition, she had a Hickman line to deliver continuous medication and she was fed through a gastrostomy as she was unable to swallow.
Over the last few years, Angel has endured multiple operations, constant blood tests and changes to her medication, as well as the emotional aspect of knowing that she has a potentially life-threatening illness. She often travels to Newcastle and London for appointments with Great Ormond Street Hospital. Angel has been assessed for a heart and lung transplant and the family are waiting to hear if they will be listing for a heart and lung transplant soon due to her pulmonary hypertension progressing and causing her to deteriorate.
Angel has slowly learnt to talk again and can now speak in sentences. She can eat most foods and no longer needs the gastrostomy. She is now also able to walk independently, although she can become breathless if she walks too far. She continues to have a weakness in her left arm, but loves to dance and has joined an after school Diva Dance group.
Angel was nominated for a Life After Stroke Award by one of her teachers, Susan Wilcox at Fairfield Primary School in Stockton-on-Tees, on behalf of all staff and pupils.
Susan said: “Angel has shown such bravery and determination fighting a serious medical condition and recovering from her stroke. Despite all of her difficulties, Angel is a bubbly little girl who loves being at school and is always keen to join in with activities alongside her friends. Although she could not speak, she never gave up and found her own ways to communicate with her friends and teachers. You only have to meet her to see what a resilient little fighter she is!
“With support from her family, class-mates and teachers, she has remained in mainstream school and is a popular member of the class. She is an extraordinary young lady who has fought hard to overcome obstacles which many of us, thankfully, will never be faced with. She has endured so much in her short life and is such an inspiration to the staff and pupils at Fairfield.”
Angel received her Highly Commended certificate at a celebratory event at the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham on Tuesday 15 January.
Chris Larkin, Director for the Stroke Association in the North, added: “A stroke happens in an instant and often changes lives forever. We were thrilled that so many local people across the North East were nominated to receive a Life After Stroke Award. Our regional event highlights the tremendous courage people like Angel have shown in rebuilding their lives after a stroke, or in helping others to do the same.”
The Stroke Association’s Life After Stroke Awards recognise the courage shown by stroke survivors and carers as well as the great work and commitment shown by health professionals, groups and supporter organisations. For more information visit www.stroke.org.uk/LASA