Recovering From A Stroke At Age 24 - Emma's Story Of Courage - Hope 103.2

Recovering From A Stroke At Age 24 – Emma’s Story Of Courage

As a 24-year-old who worked with brain injury patients, the last thing Emma Gee expected to have was a stroke. Her story of recovery is inspiring.

By Clare BruceThursday 17 Mar 2016Hope BreakfastInspirational StoriesReading Time: 4 minutes

At 24 years old, Emma Gee was living her life to the full with a busy social life, running half marathons, climbing mountains, playing netball, and working full-time as an occupational therapist.

The last thing she expected was to have a stroke and become like one of her patients, having to learn to walk and talk again.

But a stroke is what she had.

She experienced warning signs before her stroke, including jumpiness, as well as pain and weakness on her left side – but being so young, she simply put it down to tiredness. However a visit to hospital to have a running injury checked out, led to the discovery of an abnormality in the base of her brain.

Emma went into brain surgery and suffered a stroke during the operation, which put her in a coma. Nine days later she woke up to a body that was changed forever.

Courage And Resilience The Key To Recovery

Emma Gee with surgeons

Grateful: Emma Gee with the surgeons who performed life-saving surgery

The long road to recovery after Emma’s stroke was at times terrifying and lonely. She felt frustrated having been a therapist only to become a patient. And her identical twin sister was a constant reminder of the active person she once was.

But Emma dug deep into her emotional resilience and instead of becoming resentful, has turned a very tough time into encouragement for others.
The determined young woman has remade herself into an inspirational speaker and consultant to health professionals, and she’s written a book about her experience called Reinventing Emma, written from the point of view of both therapist and patient.

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Emma has a connection to Hope 103.2; she is the cousin of Fresh presenter Sam Robinson. In a chat with breakfast announcer Laura Bennett about her experience, she said resilience and a positive attitude were key to her recovery. It’s a big theme in her book.

“It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you choose to deal with it that matters.”

“Life for me was going really well and to plan,” she told Laura. “I was young, I worked with stroke survivors, and a stroke would definitely not happen to me. That was my view—strokes didn’t happen to therapists, only to patients.

“But my book focusses on how, when things don’t quite go right, we can sort of plan things and go a different way – but still live a really incredible life.”

While Emma’s speech and mobility is still affected, her resilient, courageous attitude shines. In a video promoting her guest speaking services, she is seen living an active life again – walking her dog, out shopping, swimming.

“I don’t want to be someone in my recovery that does not step up,” she says. “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you choose to deal with it that matters”.

Carers Need To Put Themselves “In Their Client’s Shoes”

Emma Gee

Emma also uses her book, and her guest speaking, to encourage therapists to be more client centred and put themselves in their clients’ shoes.

“As a health professional, I share insights from being [both] a patient and therapist,” she told Laura, “to empower carers – both health professionals and those supporting anyone going through a difficulty like having a stroke.”

She said the empathy of her therapists was one of the most important factors in her recovery and encourages other carers to take the same approach.

Stroke Is Surprisingly Common

Emma Gee and kids

Happy times: Emma with her adoring nieces and nephews.

In Australia, the statistics for stroke are surprisingly high. One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime, and a fifth of those are under age 65.

As for the survivors, almost a third of all who come through stroke and out the other side, are still working age. The challenges of re-learning all the basic life skills, and gaining the independence to find meaningful employment again, are huge.

“I had 24 years of normal life, but for some kids the effects of stroke are all they know.”

What’s most surprising is the fact that children and even babies can have stroke too. “Our society thinks it’s an old person’s disease but unfortunately it is quite common and is becoming more prevalent in Australia,” Emma said. “I have a strong connection with stroke kids. Strokes can happen in utero or even in older kids.

“I had 24 years of normal life, but for some kids [the effects of their stroke] are all they know.”

More Info

Emma Gee's book Reinventing Emma

For more information on Emma’s speaking and consulting services, or for a free chapter of her book Reinventing Emma, see