A BRIDE-TO-BE has revealed how she suffered a stroke at work just five weeks before her dream wedding, with doctors blaming the contraceptive pill and her being overweight.
Carina Trickey, then-29, from Harlow, Essex, suffered a stroke while sitting at her desk in 2012, and weighed 18 stone at her heaviest.
Doctors claimed that her weight, alongside being on the contraceptive pill for 10 years, had created ‘the perfect storm’ for the blood clot which proved a problem for Carina.
But despite the health scare, the bride was able to fully recover from her ordeal and marry her husband as planned, saying: “The vows definitely meant a bit more with ‘in sickness and in health’ because we had already passed that test.”
Eight years on, Carina has learnt to adapt to a “new body” while understanding and navigating the mental and cognitive effects of the stroke.
Now, she is sharing her story to spread awareness and the importance
of supporting charities like Stroke Association for life-saving
Recalling the ordeal, the Essex-native, who was 29 at the time, said she was at her office desk when she picked up the phone to answer a call.
But when she went to talk, only a complete jumble of words and letters spilled out of her mouth.
She tried again to say hello, but more strange noises tumbled out and she had no idea what was happening.
It wasn’t until she turned around to her colleagues and Carina’s arm fell off the table onto her lap that she knew something was seriously wrong.
Carina explained: “I had been getting on with my work in the office, gone to the loo, came back and the first time that I knew anything was wrong was when my phone rang.
I was 29 and I had been on the pill for going on ten years. I had never had problems before and always had my check ups.
“I used to say my name and ask how I could help, but when I picked it up, a load of gobbledygook came out.
“It was just mixed-up words. I could hear it all coming out of my voice but it was like a foreign language.
“I tried again but my words didn’t register. My brain was working and telling me to speak, but it wasn’t coming out right.
“I turned around and was just going to say ‘Can someone take this call?’ because I just felt a bit faint. But of course, those words didn’t come out.”
It didn’t matter too much that Carina couldn’t ask her colleagues to
take over as they were already looking at her in disbelief after
hearing the call.
“It’s laughable now really, you couldn’t write it down,” she continued.
CAN THE CONTRACEPTIVE PILL CAUSE A STROKE?
The NHS lists stroke as a potential side effect of taking the contraceptive pill but says the risk is ‘very small’.
Doctors intending to prescribe the Pill are expected to carry out tests and decide whether a woman is likely to develop blood clots or have a stroke if they start taking it.
Researchers from Loyola University in Chicago last year published a study confirming the link between the two but saying only the risk of a stroke caused by the brain’s blood supply being blocked by a clot.
Blood clots may be more likely in women taking the pill because oestrogen – a main ingredient of contraceptives – boosts the number of clotting substances in the patient’s blood.
This raises the risk of a clot forming anywhere in the body and, if it becomes dislodged and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
“As I turned around I realised my left hand had gone weak. Everything
went through my mind, my colleagues just said put your head between my
knees because I thought I was going to faint.
“Afterwards they told me they could see my face had dropped on one
side too. But no one was looking for the signs of a stroke, no one
thought it was that at my age.
“It happened so quickly. At the time you are trying to gather your
thoughts and it’s like watching it in slow motion, you’re just
thinking what is happening?
“You almost feel detached because everyone around you is panicking and
you are just watching it happen – especially when you can’t speak.”
Carina was ready to walk herself over to the walk-in clinic, but
thankfully one of her colleagues drove her to A&E and called her
She added: “When I get into A&E, they were obviously more aware of
what to look out for and after five minutes they did tests and said it
was a stroke.
“They said ‘I can’t believe you self-presented’ saying I think I’ve
have had funny turn.”
The paralysis and other symptoms slowly cleared after a few hours and
Carina was sent home to recover.
But she was called back into hospital for tests four days later – the
day she was due to be trying on her wedding dress.
Even then, she started to notice the stigma around strokes and the
assumption that it only happens to the older generation.
She said: “I went with my mum and they would say my name and they
would looking at my mum and I’d be saying ‘no it’s me, I’m the one who
had the stroke’.”
The hospital confirmed that Carina had a full stroke, but didn’t seem
to have any of the physical side-effects often caused by a stroke.
You almost feel detached because everyone around you is panicking and you are just watching it happen – especially when you can’t speak.
“With the diagnoses, there’s almost part relief that you know what it
is and you can do something about it,” she said.
“The next thought you have is you do blame yourself for what’s
happened, my body let me down.
“It’s very scary but you have to get on with it. The most I worried
about it was that it would happen again, especially the few days
Although the doctor never exactly pinpointed why she had a stroke,
they said it had been a combination of factors.
“She said it was like the perfect storm that the blood clot went past
just at that time,” she said.
“I was 29 and I had been on the pill for going on ten years. I had
never had problems before and always had my check ups.
“Some people aren’t aware that being on the pill is a risk factor of stroke.”
Carina remembers her last check up being on January 6 the same year, she said: “She was the first person not happy with my weight and being on the pill.
WHAT IS A STROKE?
There are two kinds of stroke:
1. ISCHEMIC STROKE
Where the blood supply is stopped because of a blood clot, accounting for 85% of all cases
2. HEMORRHAGIC STROKE
Where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts
There’s also a related condition called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted.
This causes what’s known as a mini-stroke. It can last a few minutes or persist up to 24 hours.
TIAs should be treated urgently, as they’re often a warning sign you’re at risk of having a full stroke in the near future.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on 1 side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
- Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in 1 arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.
Both are potentially fatal, and treatment depends on the type of stroke you have, including which part of the brain was affected and what caused it.
Strokes are usually treated with medication. This includes medicines to prevent and dissolve blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
In some cases, procedures may be required to remove blood clots. Surgery may also be required to treat brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding if this was the cause of your stroke.
“I said ‘I have run out it so what do I do’ and so she compromised and
said ‘I will give you three months but you have to lose weight’.”
At her heaviest, Carina was around 17 or 18 stone, but usually around
But despite the incident, Carina was delighted that her and her partner Steve were still able to get married on May 5.
They did have the discussion of whether to cancel, but Carina knew she wanted it to still go ahead. She even did the hen party, even if she was knackered afterwards.
“The vows definitely meant a bit more with ‘in sickness and in health’
because we had already passed that test,” Carina said.
“It was a lovely day. At the reception, there were a lot of people
asking. Some people hadn’t seen me since the stroke and expected me to
look like the old people on the adverts.
“But I had been defiant, that’s another key feeling. I was determined
and it was a nice way to start my new life with a positive.”
Over the years, Carina realised that the mental and cognitive effects
of the stroke would take some time to get used to and understand.
The vows definitely meant a bit more with ‘in sickness and in health’ because we had already passed that test.
“Mentally I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I would be,” she
continued. “I didn’t realise how much my cognitive self would change
and need looking after.
“Your body does have to rewire a bit. You feel very tired and
fatigued. It is essentially a heart attack in the brain. It’s
something you can’t see, which is why people get so surprised about
“It’s one of those things that does get easier with time”
Carina said that she had episode of depression a few years ago and that’s when she realised just how much her body had changed since the incident.
“I do have to think about what I’m going to do in a day, like if I go
for a nice walk today I know I won’t do as much when I’m home.
“The depression often comes in when your choice has been taken away
from you. Everyone else gets the choice and you almost feel
After her stroke, she lost three stone and started her new career with
And while she has faced changes and challenges since having the
stroke, she said her life has completely changed.
“I have a completely different career now and I do wonder if it hadn’t
happened, what would my life have been like?
“My life is completely different now. It’s weird to say, but maybe it
was meant to happen.
“It was a wake up call to ask what are you doing in your life?”
Carina is now helping to push for further awareness, but crucially for
more funding for charities like Stroke Association.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, 74 per cent of stroke research
projects funded by the Stroke Association were suspended.
Moreover, the UK’s leading stroke charity also anticipates a shortfall
of £1.5 million in its funding programme this year, to resume current
research and support vital new projects.
Stroke Association is now warning of the potential catastrophic
knock-on effect for stroke research which could delay access to
important new life-changing treatments that allow people to rebuild
their lives after stroke.
“It is so important to have that research,” Carina said.
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