Active after a stroke: Margaret's story

Margaret Tunney had a stroke 18 years ago, and stays active to help reduce her risk of having another one. She tells Sarah Brealey how running and a healthy lifestyle help her enjoy life after a stroke.

Margaret Tunney

“Even if you are a slow runner, you are faster than someone on the sofa,” says Margaret Tunney. Since having a stroke 18 years ago, she worried that she might have another one. But she knows that keeping active helps reduce her risk, and also gives her a sense of achievement.

“I couldn’t even run until I was in my 40s,” says Margaret, now aged 51. “In October, I did my first half marathon. I was so proud.”

Stroke after giving birth

Her stroke came the day after giving birth to her younger daughter, seven weeks prematurely. “Leading up to the birth I had horrific headaches and was being violently sick all the time,” she says. “They put it down to the pregnancy but I now realise it was probably related to the stroke.”

Although stroke is rare in young women, pregnancy increases the risk

On the day of her stroke, Margaret was on the mother and baby ward without her baby. “Because she was so small, Alexandria was in the special care baby unit,” she says. “I got up to make myself some toast. And that’s the last thing I can remember.”

Although stroke is rare in young women, pregnancy increases the risk, especially immediately after giving birth, when there’s an increase in substances in your blood that cause clotting (this is the body’s natural mechanism to prevent blood loss during and after delivery).

Margaret spent two weeks in hospital. After the first week she was able to have her daughter with her. Alexandria is now studying psychology at university. “She’s grown up to be a lovely young woman,” Margaret says.

Runners at a charity run attended by Margaret Tunney

Margaret is a regular at local running events

Keeping moving

Margaret didn’t suffer any long-term physical problems, but her language skills have been affected. “I have trouble spelling words, whereas I used to be able to spell anything,” she says. “And sometimes I can’t find the right names for things. It can be quite annoying.”

She works part-time in a school kitchen, as well as helping to look after her elderly mother. She cycles to work every day and for several years has attended military-style fitness classes, as well as 5km Park Runs on Saturdays.

I like that it is calming, the sense of doing something for yourself and the sense of achievement

“I like to go for a run on Sunday morning too,” she says. “I run along the canal and it is beautiful. I like that it is calming, the sense of doing something for yourself, and the sense of achievement you get by running further and further.”

Margaret also tries to eat healthily, and takes statins to reduce her risk of another stroke or heart attack.

“Stroke can happen to anyone for all kinds of reasons,” she says. “You might die or you might be badly disabled. But that’s not always the case. I have recovered and I am lucky. There is life after a stroke.”

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