Stroke: Bethany, part 2

Bethany Sinfield, from Bedfordshire, was 17 when she suffered a stroke leaving her with a brain injury. In this Q&A, she talks about her experience. 

Published: October 2015. Date of brain injury: 2012 (young person aged 17 years). Can you tell us a little bit about your brain injury? When I was 17, I suffered a huge brainstem stroke. It may have been caused by a combination of a hole in my heart and the contraceptive pill. My parents were simply told I'd not walk or talk again and would need to be always fed via a tube.  Bethany in hospital after suffering a stroke What were your thoughts when you were given the news? Devastated. It was definitely a very dark moment for my parents and I. When I heard the news, I thought 'well I can't just stay like this, I'm only 17'. So I pushed myself.  In the early days is there anything you wished the doctors had done differently that would have helped?          I simply wish the doctors in A&E had detected a stroke earlier otherwise I’d probably be in a totally different scenario. But honestly, I was treated really well by all nurses and therapists that I came across so they couldn’t have done anymore really. Tell us a little bit about life since the brain injury. Early on after my stroke, I had a lot of therapy i.e physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, I really pushed myself to get where I am today. I still have left-sided weakness but it does move. Having been told I wouldn't walk or talk again to now doing both, I’m pretty happy. It's not perfect but it’s okay. 
Bethany walking with her mumWhat were other people's reactions to your brain injury?        Shock! People don't quite believe it because I was only 17 years old. My parents on the other hand stayed by my side throughout everything. They are my everything.
What are the remaining effects of the brain injury and can you share some of the strategies you use to help? I have several deficits; I cannot use my left arm and my leg doesn’t move as well so I walk with a different gait. My cranial nerves are damaged so my speech sounds a little slurred. I don’t really have any strategies; I act myself and if people find that odd, so be it! But I did listen to music a lot to help calm me if I got nervous or stressed out. 
What are your expectations and hopes for the future? I am currently at Milton Keynes College, studying Psychology, Sociology and English at A Level. After, I would love to go to university and study neuropsychology and brain injury. I campaign and raise awareness for young stroke too, which is so important. I've set up a Twitter page where I'll be writing a blog all about me and young stroke to raise further awareness. In the future I'd love to help stroke survivors and run a successful awareness Twitter page. 
If you could give one piece of advice or encouragement to anyone who is living with a brain injury what would it be?  Do not give up. I know it's said a lot but you really mustn’t. You must go on, even today I'm still achieving things, for example, I passed my driving test last week! So carry on going, don't stop.   Since the above piece, Bethany gave us an update in Summer 2019... If my story was to teach you anything, it is to not give up, and carry on with your life. I took ‘years out’ to recover but I then carried on where I ‘left off’, so to speak. Why should brain injury stop you achieving your dreams? In May 2019, I finished my second year of university, where I am studying Psychology. With regard to my brain injury, I am still seeing a physiotherapist for my arm and leg weakness but not as regular due to my university commitments! In September 2017, I underwent a procedure to help my speech; it was to help my soft palate paralysis in my mouth. Before, it didn’t move to block the air coming out of my nose but now it is a lot better so my speech has improved ie. it is louder and clearer. Again, it’s still not perfect and I do still struggle with it but it’s the best I can get. You can read more about Bethany’s experience here. Bethany now at age 20
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