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April 2004

Living life with a chronic illness

Brooke Parsons

By Brooke Parsons,
Ambassador for the National Stroke Foundation.

My life underwent an entire change within 5 minutes. I felt the cruelest despair followed strangely by a beautiful acceptance. My name is Brooke Parsons and the story of my 24 years of life is different.

One day in April 1993 I was home alone when I had a stroke. When my parents came home they took me to the hospital to learn what lay ahead for all of us, a lot of rehabilitation and hospitalisation.

The stroke has left me with permanent brain damage but over the years I have done and achieved so much to be the person I am today. I have also had multiple operations to correct deformities on my right side. I remember that after my fourth operation, I cried openly, the kind of tears that made people intensely uncomfortable, often chilled or moved. At times the world has seemed to be sour like a musical note that is flat when a crescendo was expected. Throughout my ordeal I have managed to keep a positive outlook, however, at times there has been a little girl crying out of help asking, "Why me?". For a split second I doubted I would ever be an independent person again, but I found you can. I am.

Since my stroke I have come into contact with so many people and all of them have been a wonderful support to me. A stroke could be viewed as a negative thing, but my stroke wasn't negative I am such a strong person because of it. I have now had trials and have lived life not having everything I wanted, because of this I am a lot more patient and a happier person.

Brooke and Harley.

My family, friends and dog Harley, have played a vital role the whole way. They have helped me to stay so positive and have enjoyed some special times with me. They have all shared every emotion possible with me, joy, happiness, tears, anger, frustration and laughs. Harley, the dog is my best companion and provides unconditional love and protection. Having a stroke hasn't been easier on anyone, we have all been effected by it but together we have proven just how much fun life can be. My 21st was a night I will never forget. I had around 200 people were at my house, celebrating this birthday with me. All these people had an impact on my life in some way, they were there to help me acknowledge this special event. We all had fun, funny speeches were said, and we all danced and had the time of our lives. We all lived the moment.

Returning to study after a stroke was difficult, people were too nice to me, I just wanted to get my life back to the way it was. The thing that made returning to study easier was that people knew just how determined I was and how I wanted to be treated the same as anyone else. I really appreciated getting back to normal this way although I sometimes found it frustrating when I forgot I could no longer use both hands equally. Now I am at uni!

Since the stroke I have had to make several decisions, like whether or not to do year twelve over two years. Making this decision was nearly impossible, I didn't want to turn into a failure since I have beat so many odds so I completed year twelve over two years. The staff at school were very supportive and helped me through the rough times. The friendships formed were great and the experiences I have had have been huge. Graduating from highschool was another huge achievement; this was not only an opportunity for me to recognise all of my friends and teachers but to be proud of myself. It was also a chance for me to be really proud of just how far I have come with all the odds I had to beat.

I was also very fortunate to have a wish granted from the Starlight Children's Foundation. My wish was to meet the cast of the Nanny on the Set in LA. With the assistance of a little magic my wish came true. My family and I spent one week in LA, I went to Disneyland, Rodeo Drive (Beverly Hills) and spent a day with the cast of the Nanny on the set in LA. We hired a mustang convertible and made it a week to remember. My favourite part was Fran Dresher and Benjamin Salisbry, I walked away calling Benjamin, "Yummy".

I have achieved more than I could dream of over the last 11 years. I can now walk, talk, dress myself, feed myself and be the independent person I am today. I have been paragliding and to Japan. I have achieved my VCE and I am now at uni studying to be a social worker. I have been a scholarship winner, I have become a life member to the local musical band, and I am in a novel by Neil Mitchall called, Second Chances. I have been runner up in the Young Australian of the Year 2001 (Community Service Category). I have participated in the Young Achievement Australia Program. I am also an Ambassador for the National Stroke Foundation and I am a volunteer leader in the Starlight Children's Foundation.

I could have quiet easily have listened to the doctors when I first had my stroke but I decided I was going to prove them wrong as they did not know me, they didn't know just how determined I would be. Sometimes I feel like a "raggy" doll but I never have and never will let that "raggy" doll win. It's a big world out there. I have done and achieved so much and never once will I allow the odds to get the better of me as there is still a whole lot more out there for me to do. I am loving and living life to the maximum.

Editor's note

The National Stroke Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that works with government, health professionals, patients, carers and consumers on minimising the impact of stroke on the Australian community. Brooke is one of a dedicated group of Ambassadors who assist in spreading the word about stroke within our community. More information about strokes, as well as services and support provided by the National Stroke Foundation is available at

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