Princess Margaret: The senior royal’s relentless struggle with life-threatening condition

Princess Margaret's childhood with Queen Elizabeth reveal

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During her life, the only sibling to Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed all the immense privileges of being royal, but she also found some parts of being in the royal family extremely difficult. After more than 50 years of heavy smoking and drinking, even following the death of her father George VI, the royal’s lifestyle caught up with her and she suffered from various health ailments including migraines, laryngitis, bronchitis, hepatitis, pneumonia and a lung cancer scare. More shockingly however, were the strokes that the Princess suffered from between 1998 to 2002.

The royal’s first stroke occurred in 1998 whilst she was on holiday in Mustique, a private island in the Caribbean.

Although spokespeople at the time remained adamant that the Princess’ stroke was nothing serious, with her able to “walk from her car across the Tarmac to the plane” and that “she was also sitting on the plane, there was no need for a stretcher,” the stroke marked the start of the royal’s declining health.

In December 2000, the Princess was ill while staying with the royal family at Sandringham in Norfolk and was reported to be depressed and confined to her bedroom.

The palace eventually conceded that she was thought to have suffered another stroke, but Doctors later said that she was still suffering from the after effects of the first stroke.

Not too long later in March 2001, the Princess did have another stroke, leaving her with impaired vision and restricted movement on her left-hand side.

At the time it was reported that she had become confused and reclusive, deeply depressed about her health and was losing the will to live, often bed-ridden.

By the time Princess Margaret suffered from her third stroke, she was smoking up to 60 cigarettes a day and drinking Famous Grouse whiskey and gin.

Her dependence on cigarettes was further heightened when she stopped drinking for a while after suffering from hepatitis in 1984.

The Princess’ last public appearance came in December 2001, when she attended the 100th birthday celebration of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.

A few months later in February 2002, she suffered another stroke and died in her sleep the following day at King Edward VII Hospital.

Her funeral took place on February 15, 2002, 50 years to the day after the funeral of her father in the exact same location, St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.

A stroke is a serious medical condition that strikes every five minutes in the UK. It can affect anyone and there are multiple different types including:

  1. Ischemic stroke.
  2. Hemorrhagic stroke.
  3. Transient ischemic attack (a mini-stroke)

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention explains that ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes and occur when blood flowing through the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked. It is blood clots at these sites that lead to stroke.

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them. These leaks of blood can cause aneurysms and subsequently a hemorrhagic stroke.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “mini-stroke” is different from the major types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time—usually no more than five minutes.

However, recognising that you or someone you know has had a TIA and receiving treatment can reduce the risk of another, potentially more dangerous stroke from occurring.

The Stroke Association uses the FAST test to help individuals recognise the signs of a stroke. These include:

  • Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time to call 999: if you see any of these signs.

The test helps you to identify the three most common symptoms of stroke, but there are others that are also a cause for concern:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet.
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences.
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness or a sudden fall.
  • A sudden, severe headache.

Treatment for a stroke depends on the type of stroke an individual has suffered from and which parts of the brain have been affected. Typically, the condition is treated with medication which helps to prevent blood clots and reduce blood pressure.

In some cases, procedures may be required to remove blood clots and to treat brain swelling to reduce the risk of further bleeding.

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