Siobhan McGrath, a four-time All-Ireland footballer and Accountant from Tallaght in Dublin has shared the moment she realised she could be having a stroke.
After waking up one morning in June 2022, Siobhan, then aged 34, said how she felt ‘extremely exhausted’ and ‘very confused’. After taking a few moments to try to get out of bed, Siobhan struggled to get her balance while starting to get dressed, however, it was when she tried to put her arms into the arm holes of her t-shirt that she couldn’t figure out why she kept getting tangled.
Siobhan moved to the window to try open it to get some air however although she could grasp the latch, her brain would not tell her hands how to press the button on the latch. ‘I kept telling myself to push the button but it didn’t happen.’ While Siobhan’s arms were working, her hands and fingers had less sensation.
While attempting to open the window, Siobhan’s house alarm went off. Siobhan brought herself slowly but as quickly as possible down the stairs. It was again here that Siobhan felt that she knew what to do, but her body and brain were doing two different things. She struggled putting the correct code in, even though she knew what it was. Siobhan recognised something was wrong.
Siobhan told herself she could be having a stroke and recalled the F.A.S.T. signs from a TV advert. She took some deep breaths and looked in the mirror. Her face wasn’t drooping on one side.
“I tried to tell myself ‘You’re not having a stroke’, but the words didn’t come. I started to speak to myself, a simple sentence sounded like double dutch.”
She phoned her mum to ask if she would come down, which after a few attempts, her mum understood what she was trying to say.
In the next few moments, Siobhan felt that she slowly started coming back to herself. She was able to put her t-shirt on, and then tried to send a work email, but she was unsure how to send it correctly – something she used to do every day.
Siobhan’s mum brought her to the doctor, who advised her to go to the emergency department. Following a range of tests, an MRI confirmed that Siobhan had suffered a stroke. ‘It was an absolute shock that I had suffered a stroke.’ The tests also revealed that Siobhan had a hole in her heart which she later needed surgery on to close.
"When I left the hospital, it emotionally hit me. I’m not sure that I’m fully back to where I was before my stroke with certain things like my vocabulary but other than that I feel I have made a full recovery."
Siobhan went on to spend one week in Tallaght University Hospital and went through further testing. While she felt physically well, she said: “I’m lucky that I had my family and boyfriend surrounding me and minding me. Every morning for several months after the stroke, I would get a phone call from my mum or dad, and someone would call in to me too.”
Siobhan has since gone back to play football with her local club, the Thomas Davis Club in Tallaght and expressed her gratitude for all of the support received by her teammates.
“Thanks to the F.A.S.T. message, I knew what to look out for. Face, arms, speech, and time. I spoke to myself out loud and recognised that my speech was slurred and I wasn’t making sense. My brain was affected cognitively, and my hands were not functioning properly.”
Siobhan is a proud ambassador for the Irish Heart Foundation’s F.A.S.T. campaign and said ‘no one is invincible. If you recognise any one of the F.A.S.T. signs get medical help immediately.’
Do you know the F.A.S.T. signs of stroke? Find out everything you need to know here.