Mum: 'How Facetime saved my life'
A MUM-of-two has revealed how a phone call saved her life after she suffered a debilitating stroke while chatting to her friend.
After waking up with a piercing migraine on March 13, Jodi Wilkins was resting on the couch when she received a Facetime call from her childhood friend Carys Simpson, whom she hadn't spoken to in months.
The 48-year-old single mum, who is originally from New Zealand but now lives in Brisbane, Australia, didn't feel up to speaking and was going to let the call ring out - but felt compelled to answer after an "inner voice" told her to pick up the phone.
After the pair had been talking for an hour, Wilkins recalls how friend Simpson, 48, from Auckland, suddenly became distressed and began "freaking out" - repeatedly yelling out "What's wrong? What's happening?" to a "very confused" Wilkins.
Despite Wilkins "feeling fine", horrified Simpson watched helplessly as her friend began slurring her words and "speaking jibberish". The left side of her face also drooped.
Quick-thinking Simpson realised her friend was having a stroke and swiftly called Wilkins' ex-husband in Australia and told him to get an ambulance - which saved Wilkins' life.
Simpson, who works as a counsellor, said: "I often get migraines, but in the weeks leading up to the stroke they became more frequent and more severe.
"I also had a little numbness on the left side of my face, but I had experienced that before with migraines, so I didn't really think anything of it.
"On the morning I had the stroke, I woke up feeling quite ill with a bad migraine.
"I was just lying on the couch resting when I saw my childhood friend Carys was calling me on Facetime.
"We are good friends. We have known each other since we were 13 and grew up together in New Zealand.
"I haven't seen her for six years, and hadn't really talked to her in months, because we keep missing each other and we both lead pretty busy lives.
"I wasn't going to answer her call because my migraine was so bad, but then I just had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to speak with her.
"It was like a little voice inside me telling me to pick up the phone. I can't explain it. It was my intuition and I couldn't ignore it.
"So I picked the phone up and we were talking for about an hour.
"Then all of a sudden the colour drained from her face. She looked so worried and frightened.
"She began yelling 'Jodi, what's happening? What's wrong?'
"I had no idea what she was talking about. She told me I was slurring my words and wasn't making sense.
"But I couldn't understand it, because I couldn't hear my speech getting slurred. In my head, I sounded normal.
"Then Carys got really worried. She asked me to lift both my arms up, but I could only lift up the right side.
"That's when I realised my whole left side was paralysed. I couldn't walk or feel anything on that side.
"Carys just said to me 'Jodi, you're having a stroke'. She was panicking, but I was in denial.
"I didn't think I could be having a stroke. I thought that was only something that happened to older people in their 70s and 80s.
"I could see in Carys' face she was frightened. But she remained calm.
"She was in New Zealand and didn't know how to call the Australian emergency number.
"So she called my ex-husband, who rushed straight over and called an ambulance."
According to the Stroke Foundation, getting to a hospital straight after experiencing stroke symptoms is critical to prevent death and minimise permanent brain damage.
When Wilkins was rushed to the hospital, doctors found a significant blood clot in her brain and said if she had waited any longer, she would have died or "been a vegetable" for the rest of her life.
Later tests revealed Wilkins suffered from an inherited blood-clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden, which increases the chances of blood clots developing.
After the two-hour surgery to remove the blood clot, Wilkin spent five days in the hospital, before going to a stroke rehabilitation centre for four weeks.
Now the mum is back at home, having weekly rehab sessions with a physiotherapist, a neuropsychologist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist.
She has regained most of the movement on her left side, but Wilkins' left hand has not fully recovered. She is hoping it will get better in time with intense therapy.
The stroke has also caused major damage to her parietal lobe, causing cognitive damage such as memory loss, slurred speech, trouble focusing, chronic fatigue and partial left-side peripheral vision loss.
Wilkins is also suffering from post-stroke depression and anxiety.
She said: "After I woke up from the surgery to remove the clot, I had regained some feeling in my left leg.
"A day or two later I could lift my arm up a bit. Day by day, my whole left side came back to normal except my left hand.
"It's getting better, but I still don't have full use of it and the doctors said it might never fully recover.
"It's frustrating. I can't use a knife and fork and it takes me 20 minutes to put my hair up in a ponytail.
"But the worst part isn't about the hand at all. It's the brain damage.
"My speech is still a bit slurred and slow. I can't remember things.
"I feel I've lost myself. I get agitated all the time, I can't focus, and I have emotional outbursts.
"I'm also suffering from a bit of post-stroke depression and anxiety, which is really common.
"Most people see me, and they think I'm fine because I'm not fully paralysed down my left side any more.
"But they don't know what's going on inside my head.
"Doctors are not sure if I'll ever be completely back to normal, as I suffered significant brain damage, but I'm getting better all the time and feeling hopeful.
"I never thought this would happen to me. I thought I was too young, and I didn't have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
"But it can happen to anyone at any age. I saw 20-year-olds at the stroke rehab centre. No one is immune.
"I'm just so grateful to Carys. She knew all the signs of a stroke.
"We hadn't talked for months because we kept missing each other, and just the fact that I decided to pick up that day was fate.
"She acted so quickly, and if it wasn't for her I might not be here. She saved my life. I can never repay her. I will be forever grateful."
Simpson and Wilkins have been keeping in touch on a regular basis since the stroke occurred and Simpson said she plans to visit Wilkins soon.
"It really was just meant to be that we were chatting that day.
"She had mentioned that she had a bad migraine that just wouldn't go away, so I guess it was in the back of my mind, wondering what that could be.
"We were just talking normally and then all of a sudden her speech was slurring. She was babbling and I couldn't understand a single thing she was saying.
"I thought maybe my phone was just cutting out or I had a bad network, so I asked her to repeat herself.
"But she did it again and wouldn't stop slurring. That's when I realised something was really wrong.
"I said 'Jodi, I think you're having a stroke'.
"I felt so helpless being so far away. But I'm just glad I could help because I know time is critical in those situations.
"I definitely plan to fly over to see her sometime in the near future. She means a lot to me."
To donate to Simpson's fundraising go to https://www.gofundme.com/jodys-journey-to-recovery
The Stroke Foundation recommends the FAST test
Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms: Can they lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time: Is critical. If you see any of these signs call an ambulance straight away.
This story originally appeared on NZ Herald and has been republished here with permission.