A Carrickfergus woman who suffered a stroke at the age of 19 has been described as a ‘leading light’ in raising awareness of the condition.
Kate Gorman received Volunteer of the Year at the recent Northern Ireland Life After Stroke Awards, which took place in the Stormont Hotel, Belfast as part of Action on Stroke month.
Kate, now 28, suffered the first of three strokes in December 2005 following a bout of bacterial endocarditis, a heart infection.
“I had been feeling unwell, had lost power in my leg and arm and was having headaches,” Kate said.
“I had been to the doctor but they didn’t think it could be a stroke because I was so young.”
Kate went on to have two further strokes in early 2006, the third of which severely impacted on her speech and caused her to lose the use of her right arm and leg.
“What had happened was that the infection had caused a crust around my heart; each time my heart pumped pieces of that were breaking off and travelling round my body and caused a blockage in my brain,” she added.
“The heart infection is something that is more common in people who have had previous heart problems but I was just one of those unlucky people to get it.
“I was admitted to the Royal and had only a 60/40 chance in my favour, so I was very lucky.”
A long period of rehabilitation followed, with Kate receiving physiotherapy treatment to regain mobility.
“These days I still get very tired and I’m on a lot of medication for pain relief. I also have a neuropathic condition from the infection,” Kate said.
Recovering from the stroke, Kate was unable to begin an engineering course she had been accepted onto at Jordanstown. “Obviously I haven’t been able to work, but about two years ago Patricia Kelly from Action Mental Health put me in touch with the Stroke Association and I started volunteering with them in Newtownabbey,” she added.
“I do a little bit of everything from awareness to fundraising; the other day I was taking part in blood pressure checks at Belfast City Airport.
“It’s very important to me for people to realise that this can happen to someone who is young. I was really delighted to get the volunteering award.”
Tom Richardson, Northern Ireland Director, of the Stroke Association said: “Over the last few years, Kate has proven to be one of our most active and supportive volunteers.
“Having a stroke at aged 19 took its toll but despite her own personal health issues, she has regularly given up so much of her time to help others and create wider awareness of stroke.
“Kate volunteers for the Stroke Association stage three group in Newtownabbey, but she has also been a leading light in awareness and media activity. Her involvement with the Stroke Association has made a real difference and we are forever thankful for all her support.”