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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
'My child's battle after stroke'
Catherine King, and her sister Rachael who is being honoured for her fightback from stroke
Catherine King, and her sister Rachael who is being honoured for her fightback from stroke
This week, people who have rebuilt their lives after strokes will be honoured by the Stroke Association.

Among them will be 15-year-old Rachael King, from Bournemouth.

Aged six, she suffered a stroke which left her without the use of her right leg and arm, with speech problems, and without the sight in one eye.

But she has recovered - and her only reminder is a weakness in one hand.

Rachael, nominated by her mother Ann, is being honoured for her fightback.

Here, BBC News Online speaks to Ann about her daughter's courage.


Rachael King was a happy, healthy six-year-old.

Like most children her age, she spent her time playing and taking part in her favourite pastime, swimming.

She also enjoyed spending her time with her twin Catherine, who is unable to walk or talk because she has cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy.

But one day, her mother Ann noticed Rachael was having problems completing sentences.


I wanted to nominate Rachael to show there was life after a stroke

Ann King
She said: "Catherine was in hospital, and although Rachael had never done anything like that before, I thought she was attention-seeking."

But over the next couple of days, Rachael lost the use of her right arm, and then she started dragging her leg and lost her sight in one eye.

Doctors at the local hospital initially failed to find a cause for her condition, and it was only when Rachael was taken to a specialist neurological unit in Southampton that a stroke was diagnosed.

It was found she had been born with a narrow artery in her neck, which had become blocked and led to the stroke.

Ann says she and her husband Rob were devastated. It looked as if two of their four daughters would be in a wheelchair.

"That was perhaps the darkest moment in my whole life," she said.

Battle

But Rachael began her fight against the stroke.

"She had forgotten her education. She had to go right back to the basics - she even had to relearn the alphabet," remembers Ann.

The Kings: clockwise Ann, Rachael, Rob and Catherine
The Kings: clockwise Ann, Rachael, Rob and Catherine
"Physically she made a recovery in five months, and the only thing she was left with was a weakness in her right hand."

Ballet dancing and swimming helped her regain co-ordination.

Ann said she wanted to show stroke was not the end. "I wanted to nominate Rachael to show there was life after a stroke."

During her battle, Rachael never forgot her twin's needs.

Ann said: "There is a special bond between them.

"Catherine cannot walk or talk, but Rachael takes her shopping, and like all 15-year-olds they discuss boys."

Support

Just before last Christmas, Ann found Catherine unconscious when she woke her up in the morning.

Ann says she is convinced that it was Rachael's encouragement that helped her sister pull through.

"Catherine wasn't expected to live. She was on a ventilator in intensive care, and she was so poorly.

"Rachael just willed her. Catherine couldn't go - there were too many things for her to do."

But her mother says Rachael knows because her twin has cystic fibrosis, she has a life expectation of around 20.

Both girls are going to be bridesmaids in a few weeks time.

The "Life after Stroke" awards ceremony, will take place on Tuesday in London, where Rachael will be one of seven winners honoured.

See also:

18 May 01 | Health
Stroke research warning
14 Feb 01 | Health
Stroke advance 'could save lives'
29 Mar 01 | Health
Strokes: The impact
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