Pregnant woman survives stroke against the odds… but now can't pick up her newborn daughter
Claire had a stroke caused by a brain aneurysm when she was 19 weeks pregnantShe is paralysed down her left side but had beaten the odds to survive
14:23 GMT, 3 May 2012
A new mother loves to cuddle her newborn baby but she can’t pick her up – because she collapsed with a devastating stroke during pregnancy.
Claire Gibbs battled through despite being given just a one-in-ten chance of survival. However she was left paralysed down her left side and struggles to take even a few steps.
Baby Kara was born a healthy 7lb 11oz with no complications, but Claire, a former nursery nurse, can’t change her nappy, bounce her up and down on her knee or take her for a walk in her pram.
Claire and Steven Gibbs with daughter Kara: Claire can't change nappies or bounce her baby, but she can cuddle her
She was 19 weeks through the pregnancy with her first child when she suffered a massive stroke, aged 31.
Claire, who lives with husband Steven, 27, in Pitsea, Essex, said: 'It’s a miracle Kara is here. She’s wonderful but I want to be able to hold her in both my arms and to change her nappy.'
Eight months and two major operations later Claire, has learned to care for Kara, now four months old, using just one hand.
Although her speech is no longer slurred, Claire, now 32, struggles to walk and needs a stick to move even a few feet.
Despite ongoing physiotherapy Claire has had to accept the fact her life will never be the same.
Claire fell ill unexpectedly when she 19 weeks pregnant on August 31 last year.
Having just earned a promotion at the nursery where she worked as a nursery nurse, Claire was at home chatting to husband Steven when she developed a sudden headache
She went into her bedroom where she collapses. Her mother rushed into the room after hearing a 'thump' to find her lying on the floor.
Claire was rushed to Basildon Hospital where they realised she had a stoke.
Claire spent five weeks recovering in Queens Hospital in Romford, Essex
The seizure had been caused by arteriovenous malformations (commonly known as AVMs) – in other words a massive brain aneurysm which burst and caused massive bleeding.
Claire, who had to undergo two complex brain operations to save her life and went on to spend five weeks in Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, said: 'I don’t remember much at all. I remember the headache and being so scared when the paramedics arrived in my bedroom because I couldn’t move.
'I knew something serious was wrong.
'They asked me to hold up my arm as a test I think to see if I’d had a stroke .
'I remember trying to cheat and tried push it up with my other hand because I thought If I could do it they’d say I was ok and everything would be normal.'
When Kara was ready to be born on New Year’s Day, Claire underwent a caesarian as doctors feared a natural childbirth could bring on a another stroke.
Claire added: 'When I had the stroke the doctors told my family I had a 90 per cent chance of dying.
'For ages afterwards I didn’t want anyone even mentioning that fact as it was too scary for me to take it in.
'Now I don’t mind so much as it makes me realise I was strong and that I did get through it.
'They have told me I may never get the feeling back in my left side but I don’t want to give up.
'On the plus side they don’t feel I’m at risk of having further strokes.'
Claire was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 19, but says she not thinks it was due to the aneurysm.
Mr Gibbs, who has given up his job running his own eBay company to care full time for Claire and Kara added: 'We have been through a lot but we are lucky. Claire is alive and Kara is perfect.'
Claire added: 'My situation is quite unusual and I was lucky. I now want to make sure more people know that anyone can have a stroke, it is not just something that happens to old people. A stroke changes your life. Even simple, but important things, like picking up my baby or opening a bottle can’t be done with one hand.
'I’m so grateful to the Stroke Association for the support, advice and information they gave me and my partner to adjust to life after my stroke. Michelle my co-ordinator has been just wonderful.'
Anil Ranchod from the Stroke Association said: 'Our Life After Stroke campaign is about ensuring stroke survivors like Claire receive the support they need when they return home.
'Too many stroke survivors have told us they ‘feel of abandoned’ and ‘have to fight for ongoing support’. We want to make sure every stroke survivor can make their best possible recovery.'
The Stroke Association has provided Mrs Gibbs with support throughout her ordeal. For further information about the organisation visit http://www.stroke.org.uk/