Maria & Steve’s Remarkable Story
Sunday 24th September 2017 was just a normal day for Maria, before she came home after a busy day at work as an events manager. She went to run a bath, leaned forward and was suddenly hit by an excruciating and severe pain in her head. She screamed and her partner Steve came running, she thought she was saying she was okay, but all Steve heard was garbled and slurred speech.
Normally Steve worked away and traveled on a Sunday, but luckily, he was home that day and recognised what was happening and called the emergency services straight away. Maria had suffered a severe brain haemorrhage and the doctors said she probably would not have survived, if he had not been there to make the call.
A 50/50 Survival Rate
Maria was 19 weeks pregnant when incident happened and doctors feared she would have to lose her baby. She was sent to Queens’s hospital where she underwent a life-saving craniotomy but at the time was only given a 50\50 chance of surviving the night.
Amazingly, Maria and her unborn child survived and Maria was placed in an induced coma for a further 2 weeks. She was brought out of the coma the day after her birthday, but has no memory of the first week after waking up from her coma.
Maria spent a further 2 months in the high dependency ward before being moved to the stroke ward at Broomfield hospital. At this point Maria was about 28 weeks pregnant and the doctors were unsure what Maria’s level of recovery would be. Steve regularly told Maria when she was in hospital to stay strong and to keep fighting. She received physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy in hospital which she continued for 9-12 months after she came home on 23rd November 2017.
Miracles happen with Mountains Still to Climb
Despite everything on 25th January 2018 Maria gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but just when a young couple should be enjoying a magical time, they still faced huge challenges. With Maria’s strength and determination and with Steve’s unwavering support, she had made great progress, but they still had a long road to recovery ahead. Maria still had speech issues and struggled to have a conversation, she had problems walking and limited use of her arm.
In addition, Maria had to wait a year before she could have plastic surgery to replace the missing part of her skull, which was removed in the craniotomy. In the interim, she had to wear protective headwear, which added to feelings of self-consciousness and of not being the same person. She constantly thought “why me” and felt angry about what had happened. With all the changes and challenges, she became withdrawn and was put on antidepressants.
Determination and Teamwork
Steve was signed off work for 1 year to support Maria with the new baby. They worked as a team to ensure Maria made the best possible recovery. Their whole life had to be re-adjusted, but they took on the struggle together.
Despite all the challenges within the six months following her brain injury, they had Matthew and also moved to a new house. Now two years on, they have to remember to look back on how far they have come. Her recovery has been remarkable and defied her surgeon’s expectations.
Maria can now walk unaided, has regained most of the use of her arm and her speech has significantly improved. Maria said “It’s been difficult managing family life, a new born and recovery at the same time. Most people can solely focus on recovery whereas for us there were other things to juggle.”
In October 2019, two years after Maria’s brain injury Maria and Steve got married.
Support from Headway Essex
Making contact with Headway Essex has really helped with Maria’s recovery. Attending some support groups really helped Maria to socialise and realise that she wasn’t alone and she was able to gain great peer support from the group by meeting other people who were going through something similar to her.
Headway Essex also gave them advice and introduced them to other organisations that could help. They helped get a bus pass for Maria as well as a brain injury awareness card to give her more independence and confidence. Headway Essex also introduced Maria to the Home Start playgroup for parents struggling with confidence, for her and Matthew to attend. They also advised benefits and support entitlements to make their lives easier. Steve and Maria said, “Headway Essex have been brilliant and we are so thankful to them”.
The struggle continues
Maria still struggles with fatigue and sometimes cannot easily find the right words, which can make conversation difficult. Maria and Steve are a great team and work together on their goals. Maria lost basic skills such as reading and writing, but recently achieved a huge goal of being able to read a book to her son, Matthew.
Her personality has changed, where she use to be very outgoing, the injury has had a huge effect on her confidence. She is also teaching herself to write again, but it takes persistence and determination to keep pushing herself forward.
Her determination and hard work are inspirational and she will still have to undergo further plastic surgery on her skull. Despite everything, this remarkable woman sees herself as a mum first and her brain injury comes second.