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A fight for recovery

Joanna’s story

Ten years ago, Joanna was an active working mum, thriving in her career in Consulting. All that changed when she suffered a major stroke and ended up hospitalised for months. She shares the story of her ongoing recovery, and her fight to live life to the fullest.

1. Working mum

Ten years ago, Joanna was an active working mum, looking after her young family and building a career at Deloitte. “I was in the Consulting team and my role was to recruit people onto projects,” she says. “It was really fast-paced and there was never a dull moment.” Like many parents, she tended to put the needs of her daughter before her own. “I’d been warned about my blood pressure when I was pregnant, and I had a kidney disease. I’d always been a smoker but because I didn’t feel unwell, I didn’t realise how much strain my body was under.”

2. A life changing night

All that changed after a birthday night out in 2014. “I went to bed with a severe headache and that’s the last thing I remember,” she says. When her daughter found her the next morning, Joanna couldn’t move or speak. “She was only eight at the time, but she managed to call an ambulance. She was a hero.” She was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital in London, where doctors did a brain scan. “I’d had a major stroke. I was paralysed down one side and couldn’t speak,” says Joanna. “The doctors didn’t know if I would survive the first week- it was touch and go. I didn’t even recognise my own parents when they came to visit.” Her recovery was slow. After a week on life support, she stayed in hospital for a further six months to start rehabilitation, before moving home to be with her parents. “My daughter went to stay with her dad. It was a long recovery process, but I had lots of support from friends and family. It was heart-warming to have my Deloitte colleagues and partners come to visit and keep in touch throughout.”


3. Recovery

Since then, rehabilitation hasn’t been easy, but she’s stayed positive. One of her biggest challenges has been Aphasia, a condition that impairs her speech and understanding of language. “It’s taken years of speech therapy for me to be able to talk again,” she says. “I am still working on it every day. Unfortunately, I am still not able to write, so I use technology on my devices which read my emails out loud to me.” Joanna has also fought hard to relearn skills and gain back her independence. “I do one-handed cooking, I can tie my laces one-handed and I have a specially adapted car to help me drive,” she says. “It’s been very hard but I was very determined to do it.”

4. Going back to work

Due to the severe damage caused by the stroke, Joanna is not able to return to work. However, she has recently been able to start volunteering with the firm’s charity partners. “I have been on long-term, paid sick leave due to my illness, and Deloitte has supported me throughout,” she says. “Since my speech has improved, I’ve been able to start volunteering for the first time. I was nervous at first to go back because I am so different now, but my old colleagues have really supported me.” At the moment she is helping Deloitte’s charity partners, through numerous volunteering activities. She has recently started working with the firm’s 5 Million Futures disability charity, Scope, to offer advice on careers for the organisation. “I have a disability myself, so I have my own perspective and it’s linked to the work I used to do.


5. The power of perseverance

Meanwhile she is also determined to raise awareness about her condition. “I’ve been part of a documentary about my Aphasia and taken part in trial treatments,” she says. “I want people to understand what it’s like to live after having a stroke, and what it’s possible for people to overcome. I’m always smiling because I’ve got hope and I would encourage anyone who is going through something difficult to keep strong and persevere. I truly hope my story can be inspirational for others.”

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