When Dr Lisa Gadd was 24 years old she lay down on her parents couch and closed her eyes ‘for a minute’, three days later she woke up in ICU: she’d had a major stroke
When Dr Lisa Gadd was 24 years old she lay down on her parents couch and closed her eyes ‘for a minute’.
Three days later she woke up in ICU after a major stroke doctors believe was caused by a blood clot related to her oral contraceptive pill.
The Melbourne-based osteopath had been suffering from an excruciating headache, light sensitivity and a sore neck for a few days.
She had even been admitted to hospital with suspected meningitis – but her impending brain bleed was missed and she was sent home.
After she ‘blacked out’ on the family couch she was taken to hospital where she was put into an induced coma.
The next time she opened her eyes she was scared and confused, she told FEMAIL.
‘I had no idea where I was or what had happened,’ she said.
‘When my brother told me I had had a stroke I thought, even with my medical training, that’s for old people,’ she said.
The initial brain bleed was the first of a few connected medical episodes which included a blood clot developing in Lisa’s chest three weeks later.
This is when doctors told her she was going to die.
‘I couldn’t die, I told myself I had to get better and that I would live. I still had so many things I wanted to do,’ she said.
The oral contraceptive pill and blood clot risk
The pill can increase your chances of thrombosis. The combined oral contraceptive pill is commonly prescribed to women during their childbearing years.
It contains both a synthetic oestrogen and progesterone. Oestrogen can increase the levels of clotting factors within your blood. These factors make it easier for your blood to clot and increases your risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) – which includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). The highest risk is during the first year of use.
However, it is important to remember that the absolute risk is still quite small. For this reason, the advantages of taking the pill can outweigh the added risk of VTE. If you are predisposed to VTE your doctor will help you to decide what the best option for you is. For instance, they might recommend a different contraceptive pill with less or no oestrogen component.
It is important to talk to your doctor and understand the risk factors for venous thromboembolism (VTE) before using the combined oral contraceptive pill. Occasionally people might be advised to take extra precautions – such as wearing compression stockings during travel or taking medication to help thin your blood for a short period of time.
Source: Thrombosis Australia
Her family was also shattered by the news. Lisa believes those first few weeks at the hospital were much harder for them than they were for her.
‘They were extremely supportive but it was horrific for them,’ she said.
‘My mum was in tears the other day and told me sometimes it feels like it all happened yesterday.
‘They have had to work really hard to push through,’ she said.
Lisa said the stroke and recovery period taught her about resilience – she is pictured here with her parents who were her greatest supporters
She now takes part in triathlons and says the stroke made her focus all of her energy on her health
Three days after Lisa decided she would fight she was moved onto the regular ward, where she would spend the next three months learning to walk and talk again.
‘I would try to speak and the words would come out in the wrong order, it was really frustrating,’ she said.
‘The same thing would happen when I tried to text, the words would come out in the wrong order because I had some kind of processing issue,’ she said.
Walking was also a struggle – but the same drive and determinations which made lying in a hospital bed for three months a living hell also lead her to success.
‘It is my greatest strength as well as my greatest weakness,’ she said.
After three months Lisa was allowed to return to the family home, where she would continue to improve her speech and mobility.
‘The same thing would happen when I tried to text, the words would come out in the wrong order because I had some kind of processing issue,’ she said
But it would take her six months to really feel like she had mastered her life again.
‘I lost my peripheral vision when I had the stroke and it took about six months to come back.
‘When you are young and used to driving yourself around and leading a certain lifestyle these things are huge,’ she said.
Once her eyesight returned to normal she was give a doctor’s note which allowed her to drive.
And the hardest part was over.
‘When you are young and used to driving yourself around and leading a certain lifestyle these things are huge,’ she said
And while Lisa wouldn’t wish a major stroke on anyone – she also says it was the best thing to ever happen to her because it taught her resilience.
Up until this point the young woman had never had to overcome a major obstacle. In fact it was probably the biggest exercise in resilience her family had ever had to overcome as individuals and a unit as well.
‘I had some normal amount of school bullying and had fight with friends and things but never anything major,’ she said.
As a result she has also found a new respect for her health.
Up until this point the young woman had never had to overcome a major obstacle. In fact it was probably the biggest exercise in resilience her family had ever had to overcome as individuals and a unit as well
‘Without it I have nothing, it is the most important thing in my life,’ she said.
She has also developed an appreciation for surrounding herself with the best possible people and and an even bigger drive.
She doesn’t think she would have ever lead her own business, become a triathlete or been as conscious with her choices without it.
‘I have done a lot since, I have the house, the career, I have travelled, I found a partner and I am thinking about getting a dog,’ she said.
She says her family is extremely close.
It has been 12 years since Lisa had her stroke and she manages to lead a full and happy life.