A Skipton fundraiser is preparing to shave off her hair in aid of the Stroke Association after a stroke which left her with permanent vision damage.
Donna Hawkins, who works at Vision Express Skipton, is braving the shave at her local pub, the Cock & Bottle, this Sunday (5 February at 6pm) to mark the day of the fourth anniversary of her life-changing diagnosis. Donna also turns 50 this year and wants to celebrate how fortunate she is to be alive. The 49-year-old first started feeling ill in December 2012. Unable to walk or focus properly, doctors put her problems down to migraines or cluster headaches. While awaiting further medical investigation, Donna returned to work at Vision Express on Sheep Street in February 2013, where she collapsed days later.
She said: “I was facing a six week wait for a scan. I lasted the Monday and Tuesday at work but then collapsed on 6 February and Wendy, the store manager called for an ambulance immediately.”
Unconscious, Donna was taken to hospital, then transferred to Leeds where she underwent surgery to be fitted with a brain stent. Donna said: “My brain function was basically nil. The doctors told my husband Ron to go home and they would call him if I made it.”
She added: “I don’t remember anything from the hospital. I was in for six days altogether, which is apparently quite good. My mum has had two strokes, the first ten months before mine and the second two years ago, which left her in hospital for three months. She has limited speech (aphasia) and is on pureed food for the rest of her life.”
Donna and her mum’s strokes are unrelated. Doctors confirmed a split vessel at the back of Donna’s brain caused her stroke, while a frontal bleed led to her mum’s.
Donna added: “The doctors said my stroke was caused by damage to the vessel possibly from a knock but I don’t recall hitting my head. As a result of the damage, I suffer from Quadrantanopia – a condition which affects a quarter of my field of vision in the left side of both eyes.
The Stroke Association estimates there are around 152,000 strokes in the UK every year and it is the leading cause of severe adult disability. There are around 1.2 million people in the UK living with the effects of stroke, and up to two thirds of survivors, like Donna, will experience visual issues.
She adds: “When I first left hospital, I couldn’t read because paragraphs overlapped, but I guess my brain has adapted to this now. It also affects me when I’m walking because I can’t always see people coming towards me as I have to look down at the ground to walk, which can be daunting when I’m out in town."
Donna also suffers from poor short term memory and has stopped using permanent hair dye due to the chemical ingredients. She said: “I thought, why not start again and raise funds for the Stroke Association at the same time?
“I turn 50 this year and feel so fortunate to be here and back at work – I was nearly gone at 45.”
As well as fundraising, Donna is calling on others to look out for warning signs and risk factors associated with stroke, such as high blood pressure. She explains: “High blood pressure is a contributing factor in over half of all stroke cases in the UK, so it’s important to make sure you have it checked. My sister has high blood pressure and it’s possible my mum did before her stroke.”
Vision Express is an official charity partner of the Stroke Association, and runs an award-winning nationwide initiative, hosting drop in ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ clinics at its stores.
Donna added: “Working at Vision Express, I also know that early signs of stroke can manifest as vision disturbances and understand the significance of having regular eye tests. I would urge anyone to make sure they look out for the signs by getting checked, even if there are no obvious symptoms. It might just save your life.”
Ahead of the fundraising event, Donna has already raised over £1,000, doubling her target of £500. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/DonnasCrazyShave.
Did you know?
Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional.
About Vision Express
Vision Express is the third largest optical retailer in the UK and part of GrandVision, the global leader in optical retail, operating across 44 countries and spanning 6,100 stores and online. GrandVision is committed to delivering superior, high quality and affordable eye care to more and more people around the world.
With almost 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best personalised optical care, style and quality. Customers can select from a wide range of frames and lenses for glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, allowing everybody to reflect their individual personalities and lifestyles.
With prices starting from £39, the Exclusive Brands in-house collection of eyewear makes the choice at Vision Express both unique and affordable. For frames and sunglasses the styles range from iconic, retro designs to the latest in ultra-modern chic. High-quality brands to suit every style and every budget.
With over 4,000 employees, Vision Express makes a difference to the communities it operates within, and as part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, it is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charitable Partnerships and include: