Gosport granny tells of remarkable recovery after near-fatal brain bleed wipes her memory - but she manages to return to work at BAE Systems

A GRANDMOTHER whose memory was ‘completely wiped’ after a freak bleed on the brain almost killed her has today told of her harrowing six-year journey of recovery.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 18th January 2021, 7:00 am
Stephanie Russell, who survived a serious bleed on the brain which 'completely wiped' her memory, has spoken out about her recovery,
Stephanie Russell, who survived a serious bleed on the brain which 'completely wiped' her memory, has spoken out about her recovery,

Stephanie Russell suffered the catastrophic injury in June 2014, when an artery in her brain ruptured.

In a desperately-critical condition, she was rushed into theatre at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, to undergo immediate life-saving surgery before being placed into a medically-induced coma.

It was then that doctors delivered the crushing news to Stephanie’s long-term partner, Steve Pardoe, that she probably wouldn’t survive.

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The Sidmouth lifeboat which Stephanie Russell helped to repair while at BAE Systems after recovering from her bleed on the brain. Photo: Kyle Baker.

Miraculously, the determined mother-of-one pulled through and after three weeks in a coma, was transferred to Queen Alexandra Hospital’s stroke unit, in Cosham.

But when she woke up, her memory had been completely destroyed and she was unable to walk or talk.

Now speaking out for the first time since her accident, Stephanie, of Grange Crescent in Gosport, said: ‘I feel very lucky to be alive.

‘My partner Steve was told I had 24 hours to live. Then he was told I would need 24-hour care in a home and I would never be independent at home and would never work again.

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‘But I’m still here – I’ve probably recovered 85 to 90 per cent of myself.’

Recounting the day she fell ill, the 55-year-old said she and Steve had enjoyed a thrilling night watching the horse racing in Windsor.

‘The next morning I woke up with a stiff neck then while we were walking down the road I just collapsed,’ she said.

‘I had a subarachnoid haemorrhage. The blood basically poisoned my brain and completely wiped my memory.

‘I couldn’t even remember how to walk. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat – I didn’t even know how to use a pen. I had to learn everything from scratch.

‘It was a real shock considering I had bleed in June and my first memory is in November being at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

‘By then all my scars had healed so I didn’t really believe I had had anything wrong with me.’

Since then, it has been an uphill struggle to recovery.

‘My short-term memory is what’s affected,’ she added. ‘I can remember walking but I couldn’t remember that I couldn’t walk, so I kept falling out of bed.

‘But I couldn’t remember simple things like a paperclip – the first time since my stroke when I found one I couldn’t figure out how to use it.’

As well as all the damage to her brain, Stephanie also suffered a detached retina during her collapse and has lost the sight in her right eye.

Unperturbed, Stephanie joined Gosport Leisure Centre where she worked on learning to walk again.

She attended English and maths courses to learn how to read and write. She even re-took her driving test as a personal challenge.

‘My brain is like a filing cabinet; everything is in there I just can’t open the door. I have had to learn a different way of wiring my brain.

‘I know I can’t go back to the old me but I’d like to get as near as possible.’

After three years of recovery, Stephanie finally returned to work at BAE Systems – which had continued to pay her wage throughout – at the end of 2017.

‘It should have been two years but I actually broke both of my elbows so I had to wait another year,’ she added.

Last year she worked on the routine maintenance of Sidmouth independent lifeboat, which has since been scrambled to 30 emergencies and rescued three people.

Now based at BAE Systems’ Broadoak facility in Hilsea, Stephanie has started a new project working on building autonomous boats as an assistant project manager.

Stephanie now hopes to learn how to swim again and hoped her story could inspire others who have suffered traumatic injuries.

‘I’m living proof that anything is possible,’ she said.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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