Corby woman speaks of eight-year-old son’s battle with stroke

L-R: Stroke Association Community Development and
L-R: Stroke Association Community Development and

A Corby woman has spoken of her son’s battle with a stroke aged just eight.

Maltina Samhungu was concerned when she noticed her young son Tadiwiswa Mupfeker was starting to lose weight and experiencing frequent headaches.

In 2014, after noticing he had lost his appetite and didn’t seem like his usual self, Maltina took him to see a doctor.

She said: “We were told it was nothing to worry about but I was anxious because they weren’t observing him for changes and it was upsetting to see him in pain.”

Maltina was still concerned and returned to the doctor, who told her Tadiwiswa might have a tumour on his brain.

He was then transferred to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she was informed her son had in fact had a brain haemorrhage, which had caused a stroke.

Tadiwiswa’s stroke caused a loss of both vision and mobility but once he had a diagnosis, Maltina added that the recovery process was successful.

She said: “Tadiwiswa’s rehab was at home, which made his recovery easier.

“It was still hard because he struggled to walk and he couldn’t be outside playing with other children but at least he was with his family.

“His vision slowly started to come back, though he still finds identifying colours hard and sometimes doesn’t see toys on the floor.”

Now 10, Tadiwiswa attends regular check-ups at the hospital, where he has MRI scans and eye checks.

Maltina added: “Doctors still don’t know what caused his stroke, and there is no family history of it, so it’s worrying for us.

“I think back to how his face dropped on the one side and how scary this was - I would hate that to happen to another family.

“I’m nervous now when my children mention they have a headache or they’re not hungry, because I just think the worst, especially as we still don’t know how the stroke happened.”

Maltina and her twin sons – Tadiwiswa and Tadana – recently attended a free blood pressure drop-in at their local Vision Express store in the Willow Place shopping centre, where they highlighted the importance of raising awareness of stroke in children.

The Know Your Blood Pressure event was held as the Stroke Association’s national awareness month, Make May Purple for Stroke, comes to an end, and is the latest in a series of nationwide events held by Vision Express, as part of an award-winning partnership with the charity.

The drop-ins aim to highlight high blood pressure as a contributing factor in around half of all strokes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

During the event, customers and members of the public were offered free blood pressure checks by the Stroke Association’s Maria DeGiorgio.

Maltina was one of those to take advantage of the free health check and as she explained to Maria, despite her experiences with the condition, she wasn’t aware high blood pressure was a key risk factor for stroke, before attending the event.

Maria, who works for the charity as a community development and partnerships manager, said: “My grandfather died from a stroke when I was very young and my dad had one too.

“Strokes are sometimes due to lifestyle, amongst other contributory factors, but in my family’s case I know it was due to high blood pressure.

“I’m now very health-conscious and I wanted to work for Stroke Association as I wanted to give back and change the story for someone else.

“If I can do that by raising awareness of the link between stroke and blood pressure, I’m happy.”

Maria and Maltina agreed that strokes are something people would usually expect to happen to older people, but never in children and young people.”

One of those tested during the event was local resident, Amy McFarlane, who said: “I’d previously been told it was high by my GP but it was in the normal range today, which has given me peace of mind.”

Another local, Margaret Mally, was glad she took the time out to get her blood pressure checked at the drop-in.

She said: “Maria explained to me what the reading meant and educated me on stroke, and the signs to look out for.

National statistics show there are almost 1,400[stroke survivors within the NHS Corby CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), a figure that represents 1.84 per cent of the local population.

Julia MacLeod, regional director at the Stroke Association, said: “A simple and painless test could prevent a devastating stroke.

“Too few people are aware just how serious stroke is – it is the UK’s fourth biggest killer, and the second largest cause of death in the world.

“It’s vital that everyone knows what their blood pressure level should be and has regular checks.”