A woman who suffered multiple strokes is having to learn the basics from scratch after having a quarter of her skull removed.
Mum-of-three Sarah Wilkinson’s life changed forever on August 10 when she fainted while enjoying the hot summer day with her son Kieran in their garden.
Sarah, from Hertford and who turns 42 on March 18, was basking in the sunshine when she collapsed.
Sarah was put to rest but when she woke up she sensed something had gone dreadfully wrong as her face had drooped and her speech had become garbled.
Kieran quickly dialled 999 and told the phone operators he feared she’d had a stroke.
By Tuesday lunchtime she was at Lister Hospital in Stevenage, where doctors confirmed she had a couple of severe strokes.
She was transferred to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge and after numerous scans, Sarah was found to have a swelling on her brain that was caused by a tear in her carotid artery on the left side of her neck.
It had begun to bleed and so Sarah was sent in for urgent surgery which involved removing a quarter of her skull due to the blood clot.
“They called us and said that Sarah’s brain was swelling and then asked had Sarah ever spoken about not wanting to live her life if anything could possibly go wrong,” said her mum Denise.
“We’d never had that conversation with Sarah.
“The doctor that called us said they would speak to the neurosurgeon to see if they could remove part of Sarah’s skull for the swelling.
“If we hadn’t have said yes to that we could have lost her because the swelling would have been too much and then the skull would have squashed her brain.”
Sarah, mum to twins Kieran and Megan, 20, and Chloe, 22, pulled through the surgery which took place early on the Friday – just five days after her last stroke.
After spells back at Lister and Danesbury Neurological Centre, a rehab facility in Welwyn Garden City, Sarah effectively had to learn to speak and move again.
She can’t read and can’t cook, and her family now communicate by sending voice notes over WhatsApp instead of texting.
Short term memory is also a problem, and it’s unlikely that Sarah will be able to drive any time soon.
If she does, she’ll need to retake her test – that’s despite being a passionate driver since the age of 17.
But at the moment, life is all about keeping things in perspective and celebrating how far she’s come. At Christmas, she surprised her boyfriend Paul, 39, by proposing to him.
“It was the devastation and the grieving,” Denise said. “We lost our daughter but now we have a new daughter.
“And our new daughter is actually quite comical and hilarious with the things she comes out with.
“We are so very lucky our daughter is alive, we still have a long way to go but Sarah, thank God, is living and breathing.
“It’s literally like teaching a child all over again to learn to talk.
“It’s a change of life. We know that old life is gone. Now we have a new life and we have a new Sarah.”
Despite her suffering from unbearable pain and being unable to feel her right hand at times, Sarah said she tries to do as much as she can.
Due to the pandemic, Sarah has been shielding since October and, when she does leave the house, she has to wear a helmet for protection.
An operation to put a metal plate in her skull has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s a procedure that would offer greater protection to her brain, as well as allowing her to recover her confidence.
Her friend Katie set-up a JustGiving page to help raise money for custom-made wigs from Hair to Ware, a local business in Herts.