Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Health checks urged after Bay woman suffers stroke at 21

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Shandy McGee with her daughter Ellie. Photo / Andrew Warner
Shandy McGee with her daughter Ellie. Photo / Andrew Warner

Shandy McGee suffered a stroke when she was just 21 years old.

She was hanging a load of washing on the clothes line at her home in Greerton.

Her 11-month-old baby, Ellie, was asleep in her cot, when Ms McGee felt a warm sensation rush over her body on February 5, 2015.

The now 23-year-old said she collapsed on the ground.

"I was thinking what the heck. I just collapsed onto the ground and remember thinking something must be seriously wrong. I managed to drag myself inside and pulled myself up onto the armchair.

"I started to choke on my saliva."

Ms McGee said she tried to give herself some pain medication because of the massive headache she had developed but could not. She had lost her ability to swallow.

She crawled to her daughter's doorway, tried to call her name but could not speak either.

Ms McGee knew she needed help so tried to call her mother, Karen, whose home phone was on speed dial.

"I was trying to say, 'mum, I need your help, mum, I need your help,' all I managed to get out was the word 'Ellie'."

Shandy McGee still has headaches.
Shandy McGee still has headaches.

Her mum, Karen, was able to contact her partner's mum, Vicki, who lived closer to Greerton and was able to ring an ambulance.

An MRI later that night confirmed Ms McGee had suffered a stroke.

She was placed in the Acute Stroke Ward in Tauranga Hospital for five days, then moved to the normal stroke ward for about eight weeks.

During that time she suffered constant nausea, headaches, would have to sleep every half an hour, and found it hard to hold a conversation.

One of the hardest things for her during this time was she was not able to be a mum to her little girl, Ellie.

She was also not able to walk or go to the bathroom unassisted during this time.

Since the medical event she had worked with a personal trainer five days a week to rebuild the strength in the left side of her body.

Today, she still gets really bad headaches, and nausea when tired.

She was also on medications but it was nothing compared with what other people had to deal with after a stroke, she said.

"I have met a lot of people who have had strokes and they are a lot worse than me.

"I consider myself so lucky to have full movement and be able to work. At one stage that didn't really seem like it would be a reality. It felt like it was never going to happen."

Although Ms McGee's stroke was caused by a hole in her heart, many others suffered her same fate for ignoring simple health checks including blood pressure checks.

Yesterday afternoon, special guests were invited by the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand to have their blood pressure checked by pharmacist Michelle Barbour, owner of Unichem Pharmacy, Greerton.

Minister of Transport Simon Bridges was among the guests with Mayor Stuart Crosby, chief executive of Bay Trust Alastair Rhodes and The Hits Bay of Plenty radio host Will Johnston.

Mr Bridges said he had been worried about his blood pressure.

"I have been a bit stressed lately. My dad was on pills for blood pressure at my age. It was higher than compared to a year ago, but the results were still fine," he said.

Mr Bridges said the simple check only took a few minutes and was able to put his mind at rest.

"It's so easy and quick to do. Everybody should head along to get theirs checked out."

Simon Bridges gets his blood pressure checked. Photo/Andrew Warner
Simon Bridges gets his blood pressure checked. Photo/Andrew Warner

Next weekend, October 1, three venues in Tauranga would be offering blood checks.

Last year, around 20,300 people had their blood pressure taken at different sites across New Zealand.

In a survey taken afterwards, 53 per cent of those surveyed said they had made changes to control their blood pressure, including exercising more and improving their diet.

High blood pressure puts strain on the blood vessels in your body. Over time, this strain can damage your blood vessels, making them more likely to block or burst.

"The more people who know to get this simple check, the more lives we can save," said Stroke Foundation chief executive Mark Vivian.

"You can have high blood pressure and know nothing about it - the only way to know is to get it checked."

A free blood pressure check is available by visiting New World Gate Pa, New World Brookfield and or Pak n Save Tauranga on October 1, between 10am and 2pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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