“Doctors said I had had a massive stroke.”  

Before June 17 2000, Jane Stokes CBE was a successful lawyer with a 25-year career in the civil service.

She was highly driven and passionate, working up to 15 hours a day as a legal advisor in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. That stopped suddenly one Monday morning.

Jane, 52 at the time, was getting ready for work when she collapsed in her bathroom in Dulwich, south London.

She might not have been here today if two concerned colleagues hadn't travelled to her house when she didn't turn up for work.

“I was on the bathroom floor, going in and out of consciousness and unable to move,” she says. “I lived alone so there was no one I could call out to for help.”

By the time Jane reached King’s College Hospital, it had been more than three hours since the stroke, a delay which may have increased the brain damage.

Jane had had an ischaemic stroke (a blood clot in the brain) and she was given statins and aspirin to thin the blood. Once her condition was stable, she began rehabilitation and spent seven months in hospital.

“I was devastated,” she says. “I thought, 'The career is finished.’ But I tried to remain positive and take one day at a time.”

Her parents, who lived in Bournemouth, came up to visit her three days a week. Jane says the support from her family and close friends was vital for helping her recovery. “They were fantastic,” she says.

In hospital, Jane received physiotherapy, occupational therapy (including relearning everyday tasks in the home) and speech and language therapy.

She had lost the movement down her right side and had a severe speech disability.

“Doctors said I had had a massive stroke,” says Jane. “I was almost dead. It was more than three hours before I received any treatment.”

'I don’t know what keeps me going, but I just think it’s good to be here.'

Raised risk

She says her lifestyle may have raised her risk of a stroke. As a smoker, she had developed a two-pack-a-day habit. She drank moderately and neglected her fitness when her career began to take over.

“I was working up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week,” she says. “I was driven and I enjoyed the challenge.”

Recovery is a long process. Jane's speech was severely affected and she found it frustrating when she could not find the words to express what she was thinking.

Jane now dedicates her time to volunteering for Connect, a charity that provides support services and information for people recovering from a stroke. “I’ve stopped smoking. “That was no problem. I drink moderately and keep fit, mainly through walking."

Keeping her spirits up isn’t always easy. “I try to stay positive but sometimes I feel down in the dumps,” she says.

"I don’t know what keeps me going, but I just think it’s good to be here.”

 

Page last reviewed: 08/09/2014

Next review due: 08/09/2016