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A thrombectomy gave me my life back

One in four people who have a stroke are under the age of 65

Marcia McDonagh, a young mum of three, had a stroke in March last year at the age of just 43, but thanks the quick actions of her husband and a life-saving thrombectomy she has made a full recovery.

At 1am in the morning of the 23rd of March 2019, Marcia and her husband Eoin had just come in from a meal out to celebrate her birthday and were about to go to bed, when Eoin noticed something wasn’t quite right. Marcia says she was about to get into bed when she suddenly found herself on the floor unable to get up.

“I realised I was on the floor. I think I must have passed out for a second and woke up on the floor. I couldn’t coordinate myself to get up from the floor I seemed to be flapping about nothing was working,” Marcia said.

Marcia thought she was chatting away normally to her husband but he could not understand a word of what she was saying. Her speech was garbled by the devastating damage the stroke was having on her brain.

As her speech got increasingly confused Eoin saw that Marcia couldn’t stand up or move the left-hand side of her body. Recognising the F.A.S.T signs Eoin knew she was having a stroke and immediately called 999.

Recognising the F.A.S.T. signs Eoin knew she was having a stroke and immediately called 999.

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The ambulance arrived at their Lucan home in Dublin in just 15 minutes. Marcia was taken to the Mater University Hospital where she had a CT scan and further tests, all of which confirmed Eoin’s fear that she had suffered a dramatic stroke.

Marcia was then rushed to Beaumont Hospital where she underwent life-saving thrombectomy treatment which she described as miraculous.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin is one of just two centres in the country that carries out thrombectomy treatment for stroke, the other is Cork University Hospital (CUH). The first thrombectomy for stroke was carried out in Beaumont in 2010 and the service, which is provided 24/7 continues to grow from strength to strength. Thrombectomy is carried out in CUH during working hours.

Even as she was being prepped for the procedure Marcia could feel her symptoms progressing, she suddenly couldn’t feel her face, neck or throat and suffered a blinding headache.

“If it wasn’t for the thrombectomy I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I can be with my kids, that is the number one thing,"

Marcia McDonagh

Immediately after the thrombectomy Marcia remembers being able to lift her left arm and left leg once again despite being paralysed down that side by her stroke. All the feeling she has lost in her face and neck also returned instantaneously. She also recalled suddenly being able to see the left hand side of the treatment room which before the thrombectomy her brain had simply ignored due to the effects of the stroke on her vision.

Marcia was transferred back to the Mater Hospital and she recalls watching the sun rise from her hospital bed. It was just after 1am that same morning that she has had her stroke and in just a short number of hours she has received life-saving in Beaumont and was back in bed in the Mater watching the sunrise.

Marcia remained in the Mater’s Stroke Unit for one week before being discharged home and while she made a remarkable recovery she still suffered from a number of side effects of her stroke. These included, fatigue, a weakness in her left side, difficulty with numbers, mild aphasia where she would have problems finding the right words, and she also found it hard to concentrate.

Almost two years on from her stroke Marcia says that a lot of these side effects have now gone and she recently completed her first 5k during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“ I was told that if I had gone to sleep that night my stroke would have left me severely disabled. I was incredibly lucky that Eoin was there,"

Marcia McDonagh

Marcia has worked hard on her recovery and is more than aware that things could have been a lot different if it wasn’t for Eoin’s F.A.S.T actions.

“I was told that if I had gone to sleep that night my stroke would have left me severely disabled I was incredibly lucky that Eoin was there, if I had been on my own there wasn’t a hope,” Marcia said.

It was discovered that Marcia had a very large hole in her heart which was more than likely the cause of her stroke and she had a successful procedure to get it fixed a few months later.

Today Marcia is doing very well and is busy teaching piano and looking after her family. She is also an active member of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Life After Stroke support group which she said she found very helpful.

“If it wasn’t for the thrombectomy I wouldn’t be the person I am now. I can be with my kids that’s so important that is the number one thing, I can get them ready for school, they don’t notice anything different about me now that is purely down to the thrombectomy.”