‘It’s meant that I’ve grown up fast’

Victoria Edwards, who has been awarded the Cornwell Scout Badge, the highest award a Scout can receive. Picture: Allan Hutchings (14508-350)
Victoria Edwards, who has been awarded the Cornwell Scout Badge, the highest award a Scout can receive. Picture: Allan Hutchings (14508-350)

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Settling down to camp in her back garden, 11-year-old Victoria Edwards and her friend were looking forward to sleeping under the stars.

But it was to be a night that would change her life.

At 4am, she woke clutching her head. She’d never experienced pain like it and ran into the house screaming.

Thinking it was a headache, her dad Ed gave her some paracetamol.

Hours later at Southampton General Hospital, doctors would give her a 50 per cent chance of survival.

Victoria, from Havant, had suffered a stroke and her condition was quickly deteriorating.

It wasn’t long before mum Theresa and dad Ed knew something was seriously wrong.

Describing the terrifying events of July 18, 2010, Theresa says: ‘As her speech got worse, I can remember me and Ed, who was holding the phone, looked at each other and knew we had to make the call.’

On arrival at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Victoria went into resuscitation, was sedated and had a scan.

By 8am, she was rushed to Southampton General in the back of an ambulance as her condition grew worse.

During her 48 hours of unconsciousness, her life was in danger.

Theresa describes those two days as the worst she’s ever faced.

‘It was horrible. I just couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t eat.’

After those tense hours had passed, Victoria woke, smiled and started playing with the controls for her bed.

Overjoyed to see her, Theresa recalls: ‘It was such a relief just to see that she was there and that she was still Victoria.’

Now 14 and a keen sailor, horse rider, singer and Explorer Scout, Victoria overcame the odds.

Because of her incredible story and efforts in the Scouts, she is now getting to meet her hero Bear Grylls and Prince Michael of Kent at Windsor Castle.

She manages to lead by example even after being left partially sighted and with a weak left side – which made things difficult considering she was left-handed.

Throughout her five-and-a-half months in hospital, Victoria remained driven and motivated despite being told she would be in a wheelchair for life.

‘When they told me this, I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to let that happen,’ she says.

Victoria, now 14, adds: ‘I’ve always been motivated. Before the stroke I felt I could do anything and I just wanted nothing to stop me from getting back home.’

Because of her determination, Victoria was walking in four weeks.

She comments: ‘Of course it’s been bad and I’ve asked ‘‘why me?’’, but I’m glad that it happened to me because I wouldn’t want anyone else going through that.

‘It’s meant I’ve grown up so quickly, even though it’s set me back physically.’

Victoria says her mum and dad played a big part in her battle.

‘My mum and dad have helped me so much. I communicate well with them, communication is key. If you’re a child, you need to speak to your parents.’

Theresa comments: ‘She’s always been a caring and motivated child from a young age.’

Victoria adds: ‘I always try my best to care for people and make people happy.’

She gives credit to doctors and nurses in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, who gave her support through occupational therapy and intensive physio twice a day.

When the stroke happened, Victoria and her friend were preparing for the gunnel – a Scouting competition which tests survival abilities.

Unable to take part in the weekend event, she was motivated to get back into the Scouts. After being released from hospital, it wasn’t long before she was back with them.

She says: ‘It was amazing to be back with all my friends because they all wanted me there.

‘I got an amazing reception from my friends and after five minutes it felt like everything was back to normal.’

The following year all the hard work paid off for Victoria as she was able to compete in the gunnel.

Victoria’s tremendous drive and will- power didn’t go unnoticed – in January this year she was given the highest award a Scout can receive.

Victoria was presented with the elite Cornwell Scout Badge by the chief executive of Scouting in the UK Matt Hyde at her very own awards ceremony held at the Spinnaker Tower.

District Commissioner of Havant Scouts Tim Pike says: ‘I think she’s such a credit to herself, her family and Scouts.

‘The other Scouts learn so much from her.’

Her opportunity to meet Bear Grylls and Prince Michael will be next month, when she goes to Windsor Castle for the annual St George’s Day service.

She says: ‘I’m still in shock, I’m so excited to be meeting Bear Grylls as he’s always been a hero to me and it’ll be amazing to meet someone from the royal family.’

Unfortunately there was more bad news in November 2012 when Victoria was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Fortunately it is benign and non-active, but at some point in her life she will have it removed.

But typically for Victoria, the news didn’t stop her living life to the full.

For her birthdays, Victoria has been treated to days spent sailing and horse-riding.

Also a member of Havant Urban Vocal Group, she studies hard at Park Community School and generally makes sure that she gets the most out of life.

STROKES

Often associated with older people, there are two types of strokes – ischaemic and haemorrhagic.

Making up 80 per cent of strokes, an ischaemic type is caused by a blockage in the blood supply to the brain.

About 20 per cent of haemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts and blood leaks into the brain.

About five in 100,000 children have strokes every year in the UK. Symptoms include weakness, paralysis in one side of the body, facial drooping, headaches, speech problems and vomiting.

In children and young people, strokes tend to be because of an existing medical condition or factors including trauma, infection and blood disorders.

For more information, visit stroke.org.uk.