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Mum’s tragic realisation after shock diagnosis at 33

Sarah Miles didn't exhibit the traditional signs of a stroke. Now she wants to warn others.

When 33-year-old mum Sarah Miles woke up in the early hours of the morning with a splitting headache, instinct told her something was seriously wrong.

The otherwise healthy Victorian had lost her peripheral vision and after visiting both the GP and an optometrist later that day, her shocking diagnosis was revealed – Sarah was experiencing a stroke.

“I didn’t know much about strokes but all I knew was that it was something that only happened to the elderly. All the worst-case scenarios ran through my head. I thought ‘I can’t leave my kids behind, they are too young’.”

Sarah Miles (pictured with her husband Jeremy and four children) suffered a stroke at 33. Source: Supplied
Sarah Miles (pictured with her husband Jeremy and four children) suffered a stroke at 33. Source: Supplied

Headache turns out to be stroke

The mum-of-four told Yahoo how she thought she had tired eyes at first — and even after Googling her symptoms, she wasn't convinced she was suffering a stroke.

“My husband and I googled it, and it was flagged as a stroke I laughed it off. I thought ‘don’t be silly trusting Dr Google," she said.

After visiting the optometrist in July 2020, a visual field test was performed and it was flagged that Sarah may be suffering a stroke. Hearing the shocking news left Sarah in tears.

She was urged to make her way to the hospital where a CT scan confirmed she was having a stroke. “Luckily it was caught early,” she told Yahoo.

What causes a stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked or there is sudden bleeding in the brain. Because Sarah’s stroke came from a clot, it is known as an ischaemic stroke.

The mum was treated with blood thinners and spent four nights in hospital to find the source of the clot – which was in the back of her neck.

“The clot was still there after I was discharged from hospital, so I had to take blood thinners until it dissolved,” she said.

The mum says it took over a year to recover. “It didn’t sink in for a while what had happened for a while,” she said.

Sarah, who had a stroke, with her family. Source: Supplied
Sarah, who had a stroke, with her family. Source: Supplied

Now 37, Sarah still has a blind spot in her vision that is permanent and she also suffers cognitive fatigue. She says she's just grateful to have maintained her independence.

Reading stories about other young stroke survivors inspired her to share her own story. “I didn’t have the usual symptoms of what we know is a stroke,” she explains.

The three traditional signs of a stroke include face weakness, arm weakness and speech problems. “I didn’t have any of that,” shares Sarah.

Breakthrough in treatment

Stroke is one of the five leading causes of death in Australia, claiming 23 lives every day. Close to 55,000 Australians will suffer a stroke every year, often without warning, and this can happen at any age.

About 85 per cent of strokes are caused by the formation of a harmful blood clot in the brain, also known as acute ischaemic stroke, which is a major cause of disability and costs an estimated $7.74 billion each year in health care in Australia.

A three-year world-first study by the Heart Research Institute (HRI) recently found a common vegetable eaten can prevent and treat blood clots that lead to strokes. A molecule in broccoli triples the effectiveness of clot-busting medication given to stroke patients and can also reduce the likelihood of a stroke occurring

Lead researcher Dr Liu said the breakthrough paves the way for the development of new life-saving medications.

“Not only is the broccoli compound effective in improving the performance of clot-busting medication after a stroke, it could be used as a preventative agent for patients who are at a high risk of stroke,” Dr Liu said.