Woman who had stroke at 29 warns ‘you’re never too young’

Jess Tierney, who had a stroke at 29, now hopes to raise awareness that strokes can affect anyone. (Pictured with her family) (PA)
Jess Tierney, who had a stroke at 29 and is pictured with her family, now hopes to raise awareness that strokes can affect anyone. (PA) (PA)

A woman, who had stroke aged 29, says she feels lucky to be alive after worrying she was being "dramatic" about her symptoms.

Jess Tierney, from Runcorn in Cheshire, started experiencing shoulder pain while driving to work one morning in February earlier this year, but put it down to a strain from her pole fitness class.

Later that day, while she was on her lunch break, Tierney developed a headache and her mouth and tongue went numb on one side.

"I was eating my dinner and started developing a headache in my temples,” Tierney, who works in teaching for recruitment explains. "I took some paracetamol but it wouldn’t go away. At about 2.30pm, I collapsed. It was a good job I wasn’t at home alone."

Paramedics initially put her symptoms down to a panic attack or Bell’s palsy – a temporary paralysis of muscles in the face, but a CT scan at hospital revealed a blood clot with a further scan, at 8pm, revealing a blockage in the brain.

By then, Tierney says she was "outside the window" for a treatment called thrombolysis, which disperses a clot, as this needs to be given within four-and-a-half hours of stroke symptoms first appearing.

Another treatment, known as a thrombectomy, surgically removes blood clots from the artery. They are usually performed within six hours of stroke symptoms appearing, but the window can be extended to 24 hours in selected patients.

"At this point, I’d been told I had a clot on my brain so I was quite scared," Tierney explains.

Jess Tierney in hospital with her sons after her stroke. (PA)
Jess Tierney in hospital with her sons after her stroke. (PA) (PA)

Speaking of the moment she was told she had had a stroke she adds: "I went into shock and got a bit upset. I still haven’t really processed it now, to be honest."

Tierney was transferred to The Walton Centre, a specialist neurology facility at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, where the mum-of-two eventually underwent vital surgery to remove the blood clot at the nearby facility.

In October 2021, The Walton Centre became the first facility in the North West to offer thrombectomies to stroke patients 24/7 and it has since carried out almost 400 procedures.

Tierney says Dr Souhyb Masri, a consultant interventional neuroradiologist at the centre said the thrombectomy would be the best outcome for her as she was just 29.

"I could have died or it could have been life-changing," she says of her stroke experience. "It’s actually quite scary to think if it [The Walton Centre] wasn’t on my doorstep what would have happened."

Following surgery, Tierney spent six days in hospital before being sent home to recover. "When I woke up I couldn’t really feel my right side," she says. "I’m managing it better now and adapting your my life around that.

"I have physio about three to four times a week. I have to use a walking stick and can do a few steps, but then I have to use a wheelchair."

Jess Tierney, 29, was treated by Dr Souhyb Masri, a consultant interventional neuroradiologist at The Walton Centre. (The Walton Centre/PA)
Jess Tierney, 29, was treated by Dr Souhyb Masri, a consultant interventional neuroradiologist at The Walton Centre. (The Walton Centre/PA) (PA)

According to the NHS, you are more likely to have a stroke if you are over 55, although one in five occurs in younger people.

Tierney says she had none of the traditional risk factors for stroke as she was a healthy weight, stayed fit and did not smoke. She is now hoping to raise awareness that strokes can affect people of any age.

"You’re never too young to have a stroke," she says. "If you get constant headaches – like I used to – just get checked. Better to be safe than sorry."

Following the stroke, Tierney has also been told she has a hole in her heart.

"Because I’m young to have had a stroke, I’m not overweight, I’m fit and healthy, they checked everything," she explains. "They did a test where they put a camera down my throat and found it.

"They think the clot was in my blood, has gone to my heart, through the hole and to my brain."

Tierney's husband David, 39, is now hoping to raise funds for The Walton Centre by climbing Mount Snowdon in Wales, alongside the families of other stroke victims. She hopes she can get involved in fundraising for the centre in the future. "That’s my goal," she says.

Dr Masri adds: "Whenever someone experiences a stroke, getting it treated in the right way quickly is of paramount importance. Jess having the procedure means she can rehabilitate as best she can, and I’m confident she will continue to recover well."

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

To help detect the medical emergency, follow the FAST test:

  • Facial weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye dropped?

  • Arm weakness: Can the person raise both arms?

  • Speech problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

  • Time to call 999: If you see any of these signs

This can help to spot the three most common symptoms of stroke, but there are other serious signs to have on your radar too:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet

  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences

  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes

  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness or a sudden fall

  • A sudden, severe headache

Additional reporting PA.

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