How a new mum in horrific pain was left ‘screaming in her hospital room for 11 days’ after doctors dismissed her symptoms as ‘migraines and anxiety’ – before scans revealed the horrifying truth
- Tahnee Haynes had just given birth aged 33 when she thought she would die
- She became overwhelmed by a crippling headache, nausea and anxiety
- She later had bouts of paralysis and vision weakness but was sent home
- Later an MRI showed she had suffered from five strokes caused by RSCV
- She is now raising money for Stride For Stroke to help build stroke awareness
Tahnee Haynes thought she would die after the birth of her son, Jay, now two
Two hours after Tahnee Haynes gave birth for the second time she was sure she was going to die.
The Melbourne mum was sitting on her hospital bed admiring her newborn son Jay when her brain suddenly felt like it would explode.
Weeks later, doctors discovered the now 35-year-old had suffered five ‘mini’ strokes, but at the time they dismissed her complaints and told her she had ‘migraines and anxiety’.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Tahnee revealed the pain of that first headache haunts her to this day.
She remembers being overwhelmed by an impending sense of doom, before throwing her son into her husband’s arms.
‘I remember looking at Cam who was sitting next to the bed on his phone and telling him I loved him and our boys, and that I might die,’ she said.
Tahnee is speaking out about her terrifying string of medical episodes in an attempt to raise awareness about the signs of stroke.
For 11 days, Tahnee asked her medical team for help, but they told her she just had migraines and anxiety and dosed her up on painkillers including morphine to ‘take the edge off’.
The mother was overwhelmed by a sudden, catastrophic headache two hours after Jay (pictured together above) was born
Tahnee (pictured about with her husband Cam, and sons Wills and Jay) told him she thought she was going to die
Tahnee said her crippling head pain triggered extreme nausea and vomiting.
‘My nurse wrote some notes while this was happening and then my obstetrician came in and told me to close my eyes, it was just a migraine and anxiety,’ she said.
A physician who later took charge of her agreed, and refused to see the pain as anything other than a migraine despite Tahnee never suffering from one previously.
Later she would develop a heavy ‘concrete filled’ feeling in her right leg, issues with her speech and a slight droop to the right side of her face.
‘I still have dreams about them walking out of my hospital room and closing the door behind them,’ she said.
‘They left me screaming in my room for 11 days.’
When she continued to ask for help she was told to listen to meditation music, and close her eyes.
Her mum Julie Watt, pictured, came down to support Tahnee through the birth and stayed as she battled through crippling pain. Julie was the first to say that her daughter’s symptoms looked like a stroke
‘I thought I was going to die, and closing my eyes made it worse but I trusted the doctors and they said it was anxiety,’ she said.
On day 11, Tahnee was told to ‘go home’.
‘On the day they discharged me I couldn’t see the midwife, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t type and my right leg felt like it was full of concrete,’ she said.
‘But it was just an episode, later I could walk up the hallway, even though my leg felt like concrete, so they didn’t get a neurologist to look at me.’
Her nurse had also noticed stroke symptoms.
‘In my hospital notes a midwife had written “mid-sentence her face and speech changed”.
Tahnee said she looks back at her photos and is shocked at how sick she looked – despite having doctors tell her she was just ‘anxious and having migraines’
Tahnee had asked for scans to see what was happening and the doctors told her they could deal with it once she was an outpatient.
When she returned home to her mum, husband and children things quickly deteriorated.
‘Mum carried me around the house. I couldn’t move and my whole right side had gone stiff. She looked at my husband and said it looked like I was having a stroke,’ she said.
‘But when I called the doctor he said it was just the drugs they had given me in hospital coming out of my system.’
Tahnee said she pushed for something to be done and the doctor said they already had scans booked in a few days later and she should rest.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
In a stroke, parts of the brain do not get the blood supply and oxygen they need, so brain cells and tissues become damaged and start to die.
The body parts that are controlled by the damaged areas of the brain will be affected and show signs of stroke.
The most common signs and symptoms of stroke are:
• facial weakness
• arm weakness
• difficulty with speech.
Other symptoms of stroke that may occur include:
• weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm, or leg on either or both sides of the body
• slurred speech or difficulty understanding
• loss of vision in one or both eyes
• sudden, severe headache or a change in pattern of headaches with no known cause
• loss of balance, dizziness.
The signs and symptoms of stroke may occur alone or in combination. These can last a few seconds or even up to 24 hours and then disappear.
An easy way to recognise and remember the signs of stroke is to use the FAST test. If someone is showing these symptoms, immediately seek emergency medical treatment.
• Face: Check whether their facial features, such as their mouth, have drooped.
• Arms: Can they lift both arms?
• Speech: Are they having difficulty speaking, eg, slurring their speech? Can they understand you?
• Time: Time is critical if you see any of the above signs. Call emergency services immediately.
Why is it crucial to catch it early?
Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, starving brain cells of oxygen and important nutrients, resulting in impacted areas of the brain dying.
Early treatment for stroke is critical – the longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage.
It is known that stroke patients have a greater chance of surviving and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at the hospital and receive treatment with a clot-busting drug called TPA within 4.5 hours of the onset.
SOURCE: Stroke Foundation
Three days after returning home Tahnee was finally able to have scans done – and they showed she had been having a series of ‘mini’ strokes since giving birth.
These were caused by a condition known as Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome which was probably a result of her labour.
This caused bilateral dissections of the veritable arteries which lead to the strokes.
The horrific ‘thunderclap’ headaches were the first sign of the initial condition, RCVS, which left undiagnosed can cause a range of complications.
For Tahnee this manifested as restricted blood flow to her brain, causing the ischaemic strokes.
‘The technician doing the MRI told me I had to go straight to emergency,’ she said.
She went back to the hospital where the doctor who had been treating her made her wait six hours – continuing to fob her pain off as a migraine despite the scan results.
‘He gave me the right drugs for stroke and at 2am I was taken to the public hospital on his promise a transfer had been organised and I would be taken straight to the neuro ward.
‘They had no idea I was coming. So I sat in emergency for hours.
‘I have now seen the first doctor’s discharge summary since and he wrote that I had a migraine, he couldn’t even admit it then even after giving me the medication and seeing the scans,’ Tahnee said.
Tahnee says she still doesn’t feel like a ‘full’ mum, and has been left with severe health problems which have stripped her of her independence
When Tahnee finally landed in a neuro ward she was told she wouldn’t be able to see her newborn son or toddler, because harsh new restrictions had been rolled out to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
She feels like she missed out on important bonding moments with her second baby and fears her toddler’s anxiety is linked to ‘watching mum disappear’ every time she went to hospital.
‘He always wants to know where I am going and if I am okay and if I am coming back, she said.
For the first six months of Tahnee’s baby son’s life, she was in and out of hospital.
The RCVS reversed quickly, with the bilateral damage to her brain taking a little longer to heal.
And while she isn’t at risk of having the same kind of stroke now that her brain’s blood flow has been corrected, Tahnee still suffers health problems.
She often experiences severe migraines that leave her with a droopy face, sensitive to light and extremely nauseous.
She has also developed a terrifying paralysis disorder which hits about once a month.
‘I have some warning it is coming, but I can’t do anything. My face droops, I can’t speak and I slowly become paralysed from the neck down,’ she said.
‘I just have to lie down and wait it out.’
Tahnee also has depression, a common side effect of stroke, and PTSD from her time in the hospital.
‘I have to take medication to stop the dreams at night otherwise I relive it all the time,’ she said.
She is also devastated that she wasn’t able to bond with Jay in his first few weeks
The loss of independence makes her feel like she is still ‘only half a mother’ to her kids.
She wishes she could go back to the first time she had the earth-shattering headache in hospital and demand answers.
‘All I needed in that hospital was to feel safe and heard, but they took that away from me.
‘I want everyone to know the FAST signs and trust themselves when something isn’t right.
Tahnee, pictured here with her family, wants people to know the symptoms of a stroke and trust themselves when they are unwell, especially when doctors aren’t listening
Tahnee has since heard stories of other mothers who have been ignored while suffering from the same kind of stroke.
‘My neuro told us of one woman who died after seven days. I had goosebumps because that could have been me, and it could be another mother if doctors continue to ignore the signs.’
The mum-of-two says while she feels let down by some medical professionals her family GP has ‘been amazing’ and continued to help her recovery by setting goals and providing support.
Tahnee now works with the Stroke Foundation to raise awareness and has been doing the Stride for Stroke through November.