A mum-of-three told how complications from a minor heart condition have caused her to have 120 strokes in the last ten years.
Brave Sharon Bowie, 27, was first rushed to hospital in April 2000 after she collapsed after waking up with crippling migraines.
Tests later revealed she had suffered a series of minor strokes brought on by blood clots caused by a worn-out heart valve fitted ten years earlier.
But over the following months, Sharon suffered a series of debilitating headaches and was re-admitted in November 2000 after collapsing for a second time.
Since then, the mum-of-three from Droitwich, Worcs., has suffered 120 ‘mini strokes’ – known as transient ischemic attacks (TIA) – an average of one every month.
Each attack can last for days and lead to black outs, slurred speech and the loss of use in her limbs.
She blacks out up to a DOZEN times a day for around 30 seconds, although doctors are baffled as to the cause.
Yesterday Sharon, who is wheelchair-bound for life after a major stroke last August, said she was ‘speechless’ when doctors diagnosed her condition.
She said: ”I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘What? No way – strokes only happen to old people’.
”It was horrible. I went into hospital and there were all these 70 to 80 year olds recovering from strokes.
”I never thought it would happen to someone so young.
”Initially, it was very hard to deal with, but we’ve learnt to cope and it’s about focusing on the positives.
”The attacks usually come on when I’m asleep and I wake up slurring my speech as though I’m drunk.
”I lose the feeling down the right side of my face and eye and temporarily lose the feeling in my limbs.
”I had one two weeks ago while trying to get into my scooter.
”I fell and broke my wrist. They can come whenever and sometimes the symptoms last for days.”
Former fruit shop worker Sharon suffered her first stroke in April 2000 aged just 27, a year after she met her now husband Mark.
She was rushed to Worcester Royal Hospital, where doctors later told her she had suffered a mini stroke.
Sharon continued to suffer daily debilitating migraines that left her bed-ridden for days and was forced to quit her job.
Tests revealed her blood clots were caused by a worn-out pig’s valve fitted in her heart in 1990 to fix an underlying condition called aortic stenosis.
It was replaced by a mechanical valve in October 2001 but that has failed to stop the mini strokes.
Sharon added: ”It took a long time to accept the condition but it got to the point where I had to just get on with it.
”It was particularly difficult for the kids, but now it’s just part of every day life.
”Some days are more difficult than others – some days I can’t even get out of bed.”
TIA’s are caused by small blood clots developing in the body before travelling to the brain where they burst causing irreparable damage.
Sharon takes a daily dose of aspirin and takes anticoagulant warfarin once a week in a bid to thin her blood, as well as daily visits to her GP for check ups.
Last August, she and Mark visited Newcastle for their tenth wedding anniversary and Sharon was hit by a third major stroke, which led to the loss of her right leg and confined her to a wheelchair.
Mark, 39, who is step-dad to Sharon’s three children Kieran, 17, Josh, 12, and 15 year-old Mikaila, quit his job as a welder five years ago to care for Sharon full-time.
He said: ”It’s difficult to manage and we can’t travel very far as there is a constant danger she will suffer a stroke.
”It took us a long time to come to terms with the situation but I think we have now.
”We have things in place which make things more manageable for me, Sharon and the kids.
”The only thing is we don’t know what is around the corner.
”We are scared of what the future might bring.”
Eldest son Kieran and 21 of his family and friends are taking part in a charity sky dive to raise cash for The Stroke Association in July.
He said: ”Obviously with mum being how she is stroke is something very close to my heart.”