The run that almost changed Helen's life forever

It’s 5am on a cold Wednesday morning and Helen Woodhouse is out on her regular 10 kilometre run, but there was nothing regular about it by the time she got home.

The Wagga real estate agent decided to compete in her first half marathon this year with friends.

It was minus three degrees but her dedication to training saw her head out just the same.

After six kilometres she realised she was on the wrong track, something that never happens.

“I made a bad decision about where to run and ended up running along the highway then out Old Narrandera Road,” Helen said.

The run Helen went on when she had her stroke.

The run Helen went on when she had her stroke.

This is the opposite direction to her normal track around the university.

A bad headache also meant she was running a bit slower than usual.

She is always home by 6.30am giving her time to get ready for work.

It was almost seven and she still wasn’t home.

Her husband, Ben, phoned her worried that his normally regimented and time-conscious wife was running late.

He could barely understand her so he decided pick her up in Estella Rise.

It wasn’t long before he realised something was really wrong when Helen was struggling to get ready for work.

He wanted to take her to the hospital but she fought him.

“I thought I was fine and I just had a bad headache,” Helen said.

Helen's husband, Ben, insisted she went to the hospital when he realised something wasn't right.

Helen's husband, Ben, insisted she went to the hospital when he realised something wasn't right.

Once at the hospital they were sent straight through and luckily Wagga’s stroke specialist, Dr Martin Jude was there to meet her.

“He said I think you’ve had a stroke and you’re not going anywhere until you’ve had a brain scan,” Helen said.

Scans showed there was no blood flow to the right side of the brain.

Luckily for Helen she was treated within the first four hours with thrombosis (a clot blasting treatment) and suffered very minor side effects including not being able to smile properly for two days.

If it wasn’t for this early treatment she could have ended up paralysed down one side of her body and with permanent brain damage.

“My husband saved my life,” Helen said.

“There no way I was going to hospital I thought he was being ridiculous.”

Tests conducted over the next seven days while she was in hospital came back showing she was in perfect health.

The cause of her stroke is still unknown.

Doctors believe Helen actually had the stroke when she took the wrong turn on her run.

“I was the fittest I’ve ever been (when it happened),” she said.

For the next four weeks Helen wasn’t allowed to work or exercise and slept a lot to help her brain recover from the injury.

“Being home for four weeks drove me insane, I had the cleanest house in Australia,” she said laughing.

You don’t realise how lucky you are to just go to work until you can’t do anything at all.

Helen Woodhouse

Despite suffering a stroke, one of Australia’s biggest killers, Helen’s dedication to her work as a real estate agent was obvious.

“Luckily it happened in winter when the market is quiet, if it happened in spring I would have been so annoyed,” she joked.

Five weeks after having the stroke Helen was cleared to go back to work.

Her recovery process was quick due to her good health and the support of her family, the hospital staff and her work colleagues.

The entire experience has changed her perspective on health.

“If anything happens to anyone I know I will take them straight to hospital,” Helen said.

“If you’re not sure just go and get checked.”

The scan of Helen's brain. The white part shows where no blood was getting to her brain.

The scan of Helen's brain. The white part shows where no blood was getting to her brain.

The stroke team at Wagga hospital were “extremely thorough.”

“Dr Jude is extremely knowledgeable and we are lucky to have him in Wagga,” Helen said.

Despite her health scare, Helen is still determined to run a half marathon but for now prefers to run and train in the gym.

“I’ve been given the all clear and they said it’s fi ne but I’m a bit scared to go running by myself,” she said.

Helen is determined to get back into running but maybe when the weather is a little warmer.

Want to read more health stories?

Read Helen’s story and more health stories in Essential Health.

Essentail Health is produced by The Daily Advertiser to provide Wagga residents with a comprehensive guide to health in the area.