News

Former Shepparton woman shares her stroke survival story

By Tara Whitsed

When former Shepparton woman Fiona Kleintz had a stroke in 2003, she thought she was fine.

The National Stroke Foundation volunteer said she was 31 at the time and had had a busy week.

“I was living in Melbourne at the time,” she said while sharing her story with staff at Goulburn Valley Health this week, coinciding with National Stroke Week.

Heading to the V8 Supercars in Adelaide, she said it was on Saturday morning when her sister noticed some changes in Ms Kleintz's face.

But insisting she was fine, Ms Kleintz was dropped off and made her way into watch the racing action.

It was when she tried to do up the drawstring on her pants after going to the toilet that she began to notice something was not quite right.

“I couldn’t do it up at all,” she said.

“And my face felt completely numb on one side like I’d just been to the dentist.”

Still thinking she was okay, however, Ms Kleintz made her way to the grandstand when she got the biggest headache she had ever had in her life.

“I had been a migraine sufferer and I thought it was just the worst migraine I'd had in my life,” she said.

An ambulance was called and Ms Kleintz was admitted to hospital, still insisting she was fine.

“I was 31 and had had no other signs or symptoms prior to that,” she said.

She was first taken in for a CAT scan before being transferred to another hospital for an MRI which confirmed she had had an ischemic stroke (blood clot to the brain).

“They kept me overnight for observation but by then the damage was done,” she said.

The clot had hit the left side of her brain, causing Ms Kleintz to become totally paralysed down the right hand side of her body.

She considered herself lucky as her speech and hearing had not been impacted.

But there were other effects of the stroke as she began her rehabilitation journey, including neurofatigue and an inability to control her emotions.

After three months in rehabilitation, Ms Kleintz was discharged having learned to walk again.

“My left arm is still completely paralysed but fortunately I’m right handed,” she said with a laugh.

“My mental health needs to be constantly managed; it is a long-term impact of the stroke.”

She encouraged others to improve their lifestyles to reduce the risk of stroke which included eating a well-balanced diet, staying active, drinking alcohol in moderation and being smoke-free.

“There are risk factors you cannot help including your gender, age, ethnic background, family history, a history of having strokes and some existing medical conditions,” she said.

Ms Kleintz said everyone should become familiar with the internationally-recognised acronym for family and friends to diagnose those around them with a potential stroke; FAST, which stands for face, arms, speech and time.

Now based in Rutherglen, Ms Kleintz said she shared her story in many regional and rural towns across the north-east with the aim of helping to prevent more strokes into the future.

“Eighty per cent of strokes can be prevented,” she said.

For more information about National Stroke Week (September 2-8) visit https://strokefoundation.org.au