Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone girl who bravely battled stroke hailed

By Claire Harrison

Her life was thrown into turmoil in the blink of an eye – leaving her fighting for survival at the age of just eight.

Now Hannah Garrity has won a major bravery award for her determination to recover after suffering a devastating childhood stroke.

The 14-year-old suffered a stroke in February 2008 which left her family preparing for the worst.

From Augher in Co Tyrone, she was taken to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where she was placed in intensive care at one stage.

Hannah's mother Sharon said one minute her daughter was an active child, the next she was unable to talk or move and had to be fed through a tube.

"We never thought in a million years that Hannah could have a stroke," she said.

"She was a very active eight-year-old who won all her running races on sports day in school. Her stroke changed everything in the blink of an eye; it was like a nightmare."

Sharon told the Belfast Telegraph: "She had got up to get ready for school and she had put on my shoes.

"She came up the hall in them and then started to take severe pain in her head which got worse.

"She was in and out of consciousness and lost power down the side."

Hannah was determined to fight back against her debilitating symptoms – to the amazement of her whole family. After six months of intensive rehabilitation, she was out of hospital.

She added: "She went back to school in a power wheelchair which was tough for her too because she said about watching the children playing in the playground and her just being able to sit and watch them." Her proud mother said Hannah's "life has been one achievement after another since".

Hannah spoke of how she developed an inspirational attitude to rebuild her life.

"I knew I was really ill, but I did the best I could to learn to walk again," the teenager explained.

"It was really hard, but a few months later, I took my first steps. And then I thought: if I can learn to walk again in six months, what could I do in a year? You've got to pick yourself up and keep reaching for the stars."

Hannah is now a keen horse-rider and has taken part in competitions in Northern Ireland and England.

She has relearnt how to swim and enjoys cycling an adapted three-wheel bicycle.

Her proud family was delighted to see her honoured at the Stroke Association's glittering UK Life After Stroke Awards event which took place in London.

She won the Children and Young People's award.

The UK Life After Stroke Awards recognise the courage shown by stroke survivors and carers as well as the work and commitment shown by health professionals, groups and supporter organisations.

Tom Richardson of the Stroke Association said: "The determination and effort that Hannah has shown throughout her recovery have been extraordinary.

"This award recognises her victory over the life-changing effects of stroke."

For more information, log on to www.stroke.org.uk/lasa

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