An inspirational mum who has battled back after surviving three strokes has been hailed for her courage.
Julie Foster, 30, has battled against a series of setbacks over the last three years, experiencing her first stroke while pregnant with her third child, Oliver.
After experiencing a lack of feeling in her leg, Julie underwent a CT scan at Sunderland Royal Hospital which found she had not only suffered a minor stroke but it also revealed signs of an older stroke, which the Wearside mum had previously thought was just a bad migraine.
She immediately underwent treatment in a process known as thrombolysis - where a clot-busting drug acts to return the blood supply to your brain- and stayed on the hospital’s stroke ward for ten days.
The stroke affected the movement on Julie’s left side and left her with memory problems.
However, her baby Oliver was born healthy in November 2013 and after two years of working on her recovery, Julie - who is also mum to Grace, seven and Aaron, eight - was still able to do all the things she enjoyed in life.
But tragedy struck when she suffered a third, severe stroke in November 2015 whilst expecting her fourth child, and she and husband Steven made the tough decision to terminate the pregnancy.
Julie’s bravery has now seen her receive a Highly Commended Life After Stroke Award from the Stroke Association.
“I had my first stroke in March 2013,” Julie, of Thirlmere Avenue, Houghton, said.
“I woke up one morning and was watching TV with the kids when I looked down and saw I had kicked my leg but couldn’t feel it.
“I knew something wasn’t right, so I phoned an ambulance and was taken to Sunderland Royal.
“When it first happened we thought it might be a trapped nerve, but then the scan came back showing that I had had a stroke..
“It also showed signs of an older stroke and we think that might have been when I was pregnant with Grace and went temporarily blind in one eye.
“We put it down to a migraine at the time but now we think it may have been a sign of a stroke.”
After her third stroke, Julie was left with no use in her right arm, and both her memory and hearing wre also affected.
It also impacted upon her speech and movement. But determined to get home to her family, she worked incredibly hard on her rehabilitation and managed to return home after three months.
Husband Steven, who is now her full-time carer, said: “It was 2.30pm in the afternoon and she had gone upstairs to have a lie down because she has a headache.
“I just heard a loud bang and when I went up to see if she was alright she was on top of the stairs leaning into the bannister. “I knew straight away she had had a stroke.
“I picked her up and laid her on the bed and called an ambulance.
“At the hospital she was given thrombolysis again which save her life, but six day later we made the hard decision to terminate the pregnancy at five months, as it was too great a risk to Julie’s health to continue with it.”
Reflecting on her award, Julie said: “I have had to be determined and think positively throughout.
“Receiving the award makes me realise how far I’ve come in my recovery.
“I really didn’t expect to be nominated for an award and it means the world to me.
“Now I want to support other stroke survivors by becoming a volunteer for the Stroke Association.
“I just want people to know that strokes can affect anyone, it can be young people as well.
“It’s going to take years to get back to normal, but I am just taking each day as it comes.
“I count myself lucky, as there is always someone worse than myself.
“I have come a long way.”
Peter Moore, regional director for the Stroke Association in the North East, said: “A stroke happens in an instant and often changes lives forever.
“Our regional event highlights the tremendous courage local people like Julie have shown in rebuilding their lives after a stroke, or in helping others to do the same.”