Ballarat stroke victim urges community to know the signs

Janet Kennedy. Picture: Kate Healy

Janet Kennedy. Picture: Kate Healy

When Janet Kennedy suffered a stroke at the age of 42, her entire world changed. 

The former English and drama teacher was on holidays on the New South Wales coast when it happened.

“I went to get a newspaper and when I went up to the counter my right hand couldn’t take the change,” Ms Kennedy said. 

“I didn’t think it was a big deal, but as I was walking back to the caravan it felt like my leg was going backwards.”

Her partner at the time made her write out her name and when all she could produce was a squiggle, he called an ambulance.

Unable to fly, Ms Kennedy was transported to hospital in Canberra by car.

The diagnosis came as a complete shock. 

“I didn’t smoke, I hardly ever drank, and I wasn’t overweight,” Ms Kennedy said.

“The doctor said there was no reason why I’d had the stroke but it can happen to anyone.”

She spent about six weeks in a wheelchair before learning to walk with an aid, while it took two years of voice training with a speech pathologist to learn how to talk again. 

But having lost movement in her right arm and leg, Ms Kennedy still has trouble with daily chores such as cooking and housework.

Unable to return to work because of her disabilities, she said at her lowest she would find herself thinking, ‘What is the point?’

But in her role as Stroke Foundation volunteer and StrokeSafe ambassador, Ms Kennedy’s said her life had started to improve.

She now provides talks to community groups covering the definition of a stroke, her personal experience and how it can be prevented. 

Ms Kennedy said the disease touched many lives, with more than 376 strokes expected in Ballarat this year. 

But many people still did not know what to look out for.

A simple way to recognise the signs of stroke is to remember the word FAST.

Face – has their mouth dropped?

Arms – are they able to lift them?

Speech – is it slurred?

Time – is critical, call triple zero straight away.

Stroke Foundation chief executive officer Sharon McGowan said ambassadors played an important role in working towards stroke awareness and prevention. 

“Ambassadors provide first-hand accounts of their experience of stroke and insight into how a stroke can impact lives and families – these talks are really powerful,” she said.

To arrange a stroke prevention talk contact 1300 194 196 or book online at strokefoundation.org.au