Former Coonabarabran girl, Lucy Norwood, who suffered an horrific stroke when just a teenager, is appealing for donations to assist in obtaining overseas medical treatment that she hopes will bring about life-changing results.
In 1992, aged just 14, Lucy received a “blow” to her left carotid artery during a pool party. As a result of the injury a clot formed, causing an ischaemic stroke.
“The effects were not unlike a child with “Bells palsy”, or, as my sister thought when she came to collect me, that I had tried some alcohol, ending up tipsy,” Lucy said.
“However, two weeks following, an ultrasound concluded that a 90 per cent blockage was present in the left carotid artery.
“Further investigations and tests prepared me for what I thought would be smooth, bypass surgery, enabling me to physically to return to a “normal” me. At this point I could walk and talk, and operate independently, although slowly.”
Six months after the original stroke, Lucy underwent bypass surgery at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney. It was during surgery that Lucy’s life changed forever, when she suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. This left her with devastating side effects - cognitive impairment and right hemiparesis (right-sided weakness).
“Pretty much all my independence had been removed,” Lucy said.
“My family were called to my bedside in intensive care to say good-bye to me. My neurologist removed part of my skull to relieve pressure off my swelling brain, I was put into an induced coma, and my parents were told that there was nothing else that could be done.”
While Lucy survived, she realised her life had changed forever.
“I would never come “top” in maths again, or carve that path to becoming a doctor, as I had dreamed. I would be associated with the medical field, but the “boot would be on the other foot”, so to speak,” Lucy said.
Over the next six months, Lucy underwent intensive rehabilitation, learning to walk and talk. In the years since, she built on expanding her communication, reaching the point where, today, she lives relatively independently.
“I am a very determined, strong woman who has never given up on herself,” Lucy said.
“Every day I exercise and stretch out the right side of my body. If I wasn’t consistent, my hand and leg would be contorted, paralysed, and very painful. This consistency, takes patience, and the fight to keep going.”
Several years ago, using her own savings and a “wonderful donation from Rotary”, Lucy bought a leg aid; a device that attaches to her right leg, artificially stimulating and contracting the leg and foot.
“This has enabled me to walk without a painful splint, meaning I no longer get blisters from the plastic mould, and that I can actually wear something other than shoes for the disabled. I was only in my early teens and twenties - not the time to be retiring into daggy footwear!
“The leg aid has been a “Godsend”, completely changing my quality of life. Because the device artificially contracts the muscle groups that normally do the walking, it means I am not over-using my right hip, causing myself a premature hip replacement,” she explained.
“All these devices for stroke victims make the world of difference...but cost!”
It is the cost of ongoing treatment that has led Lucy to appeal to help from her home town. There is a drug, “Etanercept”, that promises a return to a better quality of life for stroke victims. The drug neutralises The Tumour Necrosis Factor that is produced in the brain by a stroke.
The problem for Lucy is that this drug is only currently offered in Los Angeles, through the Stroke Recovery Institute run by Dr E D Tobernick.
“I have set myself a challenge to change my life - to raise enough funds to enable me to travel to Los Angeles to receive three injections of the drug,” Lucy said.
“The effects of this drug would be life changing for me, and I believe that I am going to return to part of my former self.
“I have witnessed changes in two patients from Australia who recently had the procedure, where by they are able to walk and talk unassisted. It is a miracle for me to see, and believe that I will have a better quality
“Please help me in my plight, to do all those basic things that most people take for granted,” Lucy urged.
“I would love to be able to run again!”
Donations for Lucy’s treatment can be made at: www.gofundme.com (Lucy Norwood), or ANZ bank BSB: 012-790 Account number: 456814846.
Lucy Norwood is appealing for help to allow her to obtain medical treatment in the US.