An inspiring model and actress who suffered a stroke in her early 20s said her symptoms were initially brushed off as anxiety.
Doctors thought Drewy NovaClara Curious was “too young” to have a stroke – resulting in her missing the treatment window and ending up in a wheelchair.
In June 2018, the 23-year-old model, actress and disability advocate – who is from Toronto, Canada – was in the car with her husband when she began experiencing stroke symptoms of numbness and weakness of the arms, and slurred speech.
She panicked at the thought of having to go to the hospital, as she hated it there, so she tried to figure out what was happening to her.
The severity of her condition forced her to go to the hospital where the doctors diagnosed her condition as anxiety and insisted she was too young to have a stroke, so she was discharged, to her frustration.
Drewy and her husband immediately went to another hospital where they explained what had happened and doctors there felt heart broken and diagnosed her with an ischaemic stroke, where a blood clot stops the blood supply in the brain.
But, as the first hospital kept her in for hours before discharging her, the effect of the stroke had escalated.
This resulted in the doctors treating her with medicine to prevent and dissolve blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce the cholesterol level.
Drewy was then left in a wheelchair unable to walk and had to re-learn how to talk.
The experience proved difficult for her as she has always been an independent person, however, she has learned to accept her new life.
After receiving stares from strangers, she decided to give people something to look at by “dressing up” her wheelchair with light-up wheels and sporting a bold aesthetic.
She has named her wheelchair Opal, her crutches Bonnie and Clyde, and her walker Amethyst.
She now wants to help raise awareness and encourage others they are not defined by their disabilities.
‘Too young’ to have stroke
“When I had my stroke, my husband and I had spent the day at a science museum and we were in the car on the way home,” Drewy said.
“I hate hospitals. So, on the way to the hospital, my thoughts were about not wanting to go, and I was trying to figure out what was happening to me.
“I have studied a fair amount of medical information.
“While I was being rushed to the hospital, I wasn’t afraid. I automatically think purely logically when I’m in danger.
“I was just going through the knowledge I had to figure out what was happening to my body.
“I already knew I was having a stroke, so I didn’t need to be informed of it. The first doctors I saw diagnosed it as anxiety and did no treatment whatsoever.
“They said I was too young to have a stroke and discharged me. So, I was pretty furious.”
Drewy said the doctors had “wasted hours of my time”, which led to her missing the window for treatment.
“Once I was discharged, I immediately went to another hospital. The doctors there seemed pretty heartbroken once I had explained what had happened at the previous hospital,” she said.
“The toughest part was just learning how to do everything again. The only family I have is my husband. He handled everything well.
“He was understanding and always wanted to help me if I needed it. I think one of the biggest hurdles with that was trying to tell him to stop helping me with everything.
“I’ve always been a very independent person. He now knows if I need help, I’ll ask for it. But otherwise, I can do things myself.
“When I realised the stroke was over and I had survived, the first emotion was relief. Then confusion, why did it happen?
“My confidence has only grown since I’ve had my stroke; once you’ve survived something as life-threatening as a stroke, you know you can overcome anything.”
Why early detection of strokes is important
A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
The earlier they are detected, the less damage is likely to happen. They are a medical emergency and urgent treatment is vital.
Causes of a stroke can be one of two reasons – ischaemic, where the blood supply is stopped because of a blood clot and haemorrhagic, where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
Drewy now wants to prove strokes can happen at any age and help raise awareness of the symptoms so others can watch out for them.
Symptoms can be two or all of the following, face may have dropped on one side, they may experience numbness or weakness in one arm and their speech may be slurred or the person may not be able to talk at all.
“I get stared at a lot. Everywhere I go, people stare and think ‘poor thing’. I don’t want this,” she said.
“So, I give them something a little more fun to stare at.
“When people see my light up wheelchair, they always say ‘that’s so cool’. I have a galaxy print license plate on the back of my chair with my name on it.
“I decorate all of my mobility aids and wear crazy, fun makeup and bold outfits. I’ve had lights wrapped around my crutches before too inspired by @amazingabigailgrace.
“I dance wild and free whenever I have the opportunity and I love spinning wheelies. I don’t do boring. Fabulous is way more fun.
“I’ve learned how to do just about everything in a wheelchair and I’m very independent. I’ve met many wonderful people because this happened to me. I’m genuinely okay.
“My plans for the future are to continue modelling, to continue growing my online platform so I can reach more people and spread awareness and acceptance of disabilities and other kinds of diversity.
“Don’t give up. You don’t need to give up fun, hanging out with friends, learning, you don’t have to give up on anything.
“You just have to learn how to do some things differently and sometimes that can be quite fun. I like to say, ‘never forget fun’.”
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