MARINA Ukhalova woke up one morning feeling pretty unwell.
She was nauseous, dizzy and had an "excruciating" headache.
"It felt like a sharp knife digging into my brain," she said. "My whole head was throbbing."
The 32-year-old knew something was "seriously wrong", but had no idea what could be causing her agonising symptoms.
In an attempt to call for help, she got out of bed to reach for her phone, but barely made it a few feet.
"I collapsed to the floor and passed out," she said.
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This is where Marina stayed for the next 12 hours. She was paralysed.
Unable to shout or move, Marina was helpless.
Extraordinarily, her sister who was in a different country at the time, began to worry why she hadn't been active on WhatsApp for the entire day.
They usually spoke every morning and night, so alarm bells started to ring.
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Marina, from Kensington, west London, said: "Everything feels like a bit of a blur, but I remember my phone ringing.
"As my phone rang, I distinctly remember trying to pull my body across the floor to reach it, but I had no strength.
"Every time I moved, I would be shocked by the pain, and pass out again.
"In the moments of consciousness all I could pray for was someone to know I needed help."
After repeated unanswered calls, Marina's sister phoned a friend nearby to ask her to call round to her house.
"I remember hearing voices outside my front door and felt a huge sense of relief knowing I was close to getting help," Marina said.
"But I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move – I was just lying there unable to tell those people I was inside and needed help.
"I began to moan loudly in the hope they would hear me."
After no luck, her pal had no choice but to call the police.
Officers knocked down her door and rushed inside, but still, Marina was unable to speak.
"I tried to talk but nothing was coming out," the beauty business owner said.
It felt like a sharp knife digging into my brain. My whole head was throbbing.
Marina eventually discovered she had had a haemorrhagic stroke – a life-threatening condition that happens when a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
Survivors are often left with long-term problems, such as impaired speech, restricted movement, and muscle weakness.
And Marina was no different. She was paralysed down the right side of her body and suffered with aphasia – a communication disorder which left her unable to talk.
Over the following months, Marina worked to regain her ability to speak and move her right limbs.
But she constantly felt like her life was over, especially after being forced to give up her dream job.
"I specialise in eyelash extensions, and opening and owning my beauty business was a huge achievement for me," she said.
"After my stroke, I was robbed of so much, it felt like my world had come shattering down.
"Not only do I struggle physically, but also mentally.
"I really did try to get back to doing my day job, but sadly it wouldn’t work."
'ROBBED OF EVERYTHING I'D WORKED FOR'
Thankfully, Marina has managed to employ several new staff members to keep her business going, and she's trying to stay positive.
"I’m sad I won’t get to do what I’ve worked so hard on all these years, but my passion for it will never die," she added.
"There’s still some way to go with my recovery – I’ve had good days, but also bad days.
"Before my stroke I was very fit, active and sociable – I felt robbed of everything I’d worked hard for, and who I was.
"I’m slowly understanding life after stroke though, and working hard on not only my physical issues, but mental too.
"I’ve learnt to be patient. Now I want to turn this horrible experience into something positive to help others."
There are more than 100,000 strokes every year, with 1.3million survivors living in the UK today.
This number is expected to rise to over two million by 2035, according to the Stroke Association.
New research shows almost two thirds of the general population wrongly believe they aren't at risk because strokes don't happen to young people.
In reality, one in four occur in people of working age.
Worryingly, the study also found that a quarter of stroke survivors aged 60 and under were initially diagnosed with another condition.
This is likely because the main symptoms – paralysis, numbness, slurred speech, vision changes, nausea, confusion and dizziness – can also be signs of other illnesses.
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Alexis Kolodziej, executive director at the Stroke Association, said: "Our research highlights that people still think stroke is a condition that only affects older people.
"It’s crucial that we challenge this misconception and make people aware that stroke affects young adults too."
What is a stroke and aphasia?
MORE than 100,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the UK.
It is a life-threatening medical condition that claims the lives of over 38,000 people annually.
The main symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped
- Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
- Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms
Strokes are caused when the supply of blood to the brain is restricted or stopped and cells begin to die.
Certain conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heart beats and diabetes, increase the risk of having one.
Strokes are usually treated with medicine, but people are often left with long-term problems so recovery can take some time.
For example, many people experience aphasia – difficulty with language or speech, usually caused by damage to the left side of the brain.
Sufferers will often have trouble with reading, listening, speaking, writing or typing.
Speech and language therapy is the main type of treatment.
Strokes associated with pregnancy are rare, but pregnancy and childbirth do increase your risk.
Source: NHS and the Stroke Association
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