Taking baby steps - By Jacqui Madigan

Monday, January 10 2022, 2:27PM

By Jacqui Madigan 

I had my stroke on the 5th of October.  

It was a nice, warm morning, and I was feeling great. I was taking my then two-week-old baby on our first solo walk. My husband had just dropped off our nearly 3-year-old off at day care and was going into the office for the first time since having the baby.  

During the walk, I stopped to text my friend to see if she was home. All of a sudden, the world around me started to spin and I felt extremely dizzy and nauseous. I felt tingling in my right hand and foot and couldn’t figure out how to put the lid back on my lip balm. It only lasted for about a minute, so I thought it was because of the heat and potentially not eating enough breakfast. I walked all the way home, stopping a few times.  

I went about my day, but I did call my dad back home in California to tell him I was feeling “off” and a bit dizzy and tingly. That night, my right arm went completely numb while trying to feed and change my newborn. Even then, I still didn’t think much of it because I had no idea what the symptoms of stroke even were! 

The next day, I still had some symptoms, and I also developed a very painful clenched jaw on the right side. I figured that if my symptoms were caused by heat, it should have gone away by now, so I decided to see my GP. She referred me for an MRI scan, but I couldn’t get in until the following day.  

When the results of my MRI came, I got a call from my GP telling me to straight to the hospital. I was told there that I had an acute left frontal lobe stroke, and I was given aspirin. 

I spent about a week in hospital. The doctors did many tests, but there was nothing coming back to explain why I had a stroke, especially because I was 36, fit and healthy. 

Jacqui and her baby in hospital

After my stroke, I experienced memory and attention deficits, right side weakness, numbness and fatigue. While recovery has been going well, it can be difficult dealing with fatigue, especially because I have two young children (11-week-old and nearly 3-year-old). There are good days and bad days, and I do experience more anxiety. 

Fortunately, the support that I have received from my husband, family, friends and community rehab has been amazing. Through a community rehab team, I have an occupational therapist and speech therapist that come to my home each week. 

With the support of those around me, I’m already on the path to an amazing recovery. I also feel very blessed that I had stopped on my walk when the stroke occurred – it could have been worse, especially because I was walking alone with my newborn. 

My goal now is to get stronger and walk as far as I can each day. Having a stroke only two weeks postpartum was very hard, so I want to get back into fitness and feel like myself again. 

My advice is to push yourself each day, but also take it easy! Even the smallest thing will fatigue you, so remind yourself that you are doing all that you can. I had a hard time just going up three steps on the stairs, and now I can do an entire flight. Take baby steps, don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything and try to not be so hard on yourself – you're a survivor. 

Jacqui and her baby at the beach