A TEENAGE stroke survivor from Northumberland has picked up a top honour at a national awards ceremony.
Jess Colborn, 19, from Allenheads, was awarded the Stroke Association’s Young Person’s Courage Award after she suffered a stroke on May 31 last year.
Jess, who carried the Olympic Flame through Newcastle on June 15, suffered left-sided paralysis and right-sided facial palsy after having a stroke while studying for her exams.
Now she is three months pregnant and looking forward to a new life as a mother. A student at Haydon Bridge High School, she is also soon due to take the exams that were delayed by her stroke.
She said: “I woke up with a headache and dull pain in the back of my head, but it wasn’t going to spoil my and my boyfriend Nathan’s annual trip to the Northumberland County Show.
“I took painkillers and blamed the mix of alcohol and sunshine for what became a migraine. Lots of people noticed my slurred speech, but we all thought I was just drunk.
“During the day, the pain became immense and I was hysterical; my lungs were screaming and my heart was pounding as if I was having a heart attack.
“I tried to sleep it off, but in the morning, I couldn’t lift my head or walk. I was really scared. I tried to speak but my tongue felt huge in my mouth and I kept slurring simple words, so dad took me to Hexham General Hospital.
“My family were all really worried, but I kept joking about getting all the attention for once, and not my drama queen sister! The left side of my face was weakened now, and I kept pulling funny faces with my lips.”
Transferred to Newcastle General Hospital, delicate surgery to stem the bleeding was successful. Jess continued: “The next five months were the hardest days of my life. I couldn’t move my whole left side or the right side of my face. I didn’t know if I felt lucky to be alive or unlucky to be in this position. I was angry as my exams were in a week and I’d spent months revising.”
After months of gruelling work at the Walkergate Park rehabilitation centre, Jess was able to wash herself, make a cup of tea and go for walks. Now she is living as full a life as possible.
Speaking about her award, Jess said: “It’s so amazing to be even nominated. It feels surreal and feels like I don’t deserve it, because it’s just something that happened to me that I’ve got on with.
“I’m now volunteering for Stroke Association in the North East to make people aware that strokes can happen to people at any age – if I can help one young person recognise the signs of stroke I will feel immensely happy.” Stroke Association chief executive Jon Barrick said: “Around one million people in the UK live with the effects of stroke.
“The Life After Stroke awards not only highlight how stroke can affect anyone at any age, but also the tremendous courage people have shown in rebuilding their lives after a stroke or helping others to do the same.”