Losalini Harford was a picture of health. The fit 38-year-old cricketer was training for a half-marathon, was considering a comeback to top Auckland women's cricket team the Hearts, was a stand-out player in Auckland premier and club cricket and had played for the NZ women's indoor cricket team.
The Fijian women's cricket captain, who lives in Auckland, was also looking forward to leading her national side in a tournament in Vanuatu in May. But, on Sunday morning, August 21, those plans were struck down.
Losi, as she's known, was planning to spend time with four-year-old son Eli in Mission Bay, but woke with a terrible headache.
Her partner of three years, Auckland Hearts player Regina Lili'i, says Losi thought a few pain relievers would fix the pain.
"She took Panadol and said she would be fine. But about 9am she slumped against the wall and was limp on her left side and couldn't talk or walk properly. We didn't know what was happening so called an ambulance," says Regina.
Losi had suffered a serious stroke.
Close friend and former White Fern Maia Lewis says it is fortunate Regina took quick action.
"If it had happened in the night it would have been much worse and maybe Losi wouldn't be here," she says. "But her fast action, and then that treatment in the first six hours to unblock the clot was crucial."
The doctors painted a worst-case scenario, saying they didn't know if Losi would live and, if she did, they weren't sure she would walk or talk again. But almost three months later, the determined sportswoman and senior business analyst is back on her feet, with help, and talking in short sentences.
Last week she received her New Zealand citizenship in a ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall, in which her speech had improved enough to read the oath of allegiance.
Auckland women's cricket manager Maia says it's hard to predict the long-term outcome for her friend but, if progress is any indication, Losi will be back. "She's really, really determined; and, yes, of course she has her ups and downs when she thinks about stuff too much, but she wants to get back to doing things with Eli."
Depression is common for stroke victims in the early months but Losi has the support of friends and family, and returning to work is also in her sights. Losi's employer, Tower Insurance, is encouraging her to work from home next year.
The first tentative step towards returning home came this week, when Losi moved from Rehab Plus in Point Chevalier to the Laura Fergusson Trust facility in Greenlane, where she's expected to remain for several months. She has improved enough for day trips to her Mt Eden home and this Sunday, November 27, will make another trip - to a cricket match in her honour.
A group of top women cricketers, including Haidee Tiffen and Rebecca Rolls, will form the Harford Invitation side to take on the Hearts team. Regina is undecided whether she will play for the Hearts, wanting to make sure she is by Losi's side for the day. The two sides will play a T20 match at Melville Park at midday in a picnic fundraiser for Losi's long recovery.
Cricketers and enthusiasts want to recognise the contribution the talented sportswoman has made to the game. As well as being the mainstay of the batting line-up for Grafton, she has helped younger players at club, district and national level. Now it is their chance to return the favour and help Losi.
BRING A PICNIC AND YOUR DONATIONS TO
T20 Fundraiser for Losi Harford
Melville Park, Sunday November 27, 12-5pm.
Online donations can be made to 03 0252 0903417 00.
Stroke - not just an older person's risk
- Losi didn't fit a risk profile. She doesn't smoke, ate healthily and exercised regularly. She does have some family history of stroke, but in much older relatives.
- Strokes can affect people of all ages. Around 40 children have strokes each year in NZ.
- Nearly 2000 (a quarter of all strokes) will be suffered by people under retirement age.
- Every day about 21 New Zealanders have a stroke.
The Stroke Foundation has a number of moving stories on its website:
Stroke Risk Factors
The following are risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- binge drinking
- high cholesterol
- physical inactivity
- being overweight
- atrial fibrillation
- unhealthy diet with high salt intake