Fitter and healthier than she had ever been, Cathrine Ritter had just celebrated her 38th birthday when she experienced a stroke.
“I didn’t know that young people could have strokes, at the time I was working out five or six times a week. I didn’t drink or smoke, I ate a wholefood diet and had no family history of stroke,” Cathrine said.
“I was walking slowly down the hallway, at first I thought I’d overdone it at the gym, but I couldn’t move my left arm or leg, that’s when I thought it might be a stroke. I called out to my fiancé who came rushing out and called an ambulance.”
After a CT scan at the hospital, Cathrine received life-saving clot busting drugs. The paramedic who raced her to the hospital even came in to check on her once his shift had finished.
Cathrine is among the 145,000 stroke survivors living in New South Wales.
“I would say I’m 95% recovered, I find that I cannot engage muscles on my affected side as well. It certainly hasn’t been a linear experience and that has been tricky to deal with mentally,” she said.
“My message to others is to never give up! You know what your body is capable of, so continue to challenge yourself.”
To mark National Stroke Week (August 8- 14), Stroke Foundation is encouraging the community to learn the F.A.S.T (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) signs of stroke to ensure more people can receive the lifesaving treatment they need after stroke and will be able to enjoy more of life’s precious moments.
Cathrine’s precious moment was climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the first anniversary of her stroke.
“It was something I had always wanted to do since I moved to Australia from Wales, but I put it off because it was expensive. Having a stroke taught me not to put things off because you never know what’s around the corner,” she said.
“While the climb took a lot out of me, it was a great experience, and I was really proud of the work I put in to be able to achieve it.”
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan says Cathrine’s knowledge of F.A.S.T may have saved her life.
“We know that the faster a stroke patient gets to hospital and receives medical treatment, the better their chance of survival and successful rehabilitation,” Ms McGowan said.
“Stroke Foundation’s annual survey found that 40 per cent of Australians do not recognise any of the signs of stroke, and therefore may not call for an ambulance quickly enough to get medical care.
“Ideally, we want at least one person in every household and workplace in Australia to be able to recognise the signs of stroke and to know that time is critical, calling triple zero (000) is the very first thing you must do.”
Think F.A.S.T and ask these questions:
Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms – Can they lift both arms?
Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time – Time is critical. If you see any of these signs, call 000 straight away