A MOTHER-of-four who suffered a life-changing stroke at the age of 28 has spoken out to raise awareness about the impact of the disease on young people.

Pauline Hardman, from Newton Hall, in Durham, is visually impaired after suffering a stroke, which was initially diagnosed as a migraine, in October 2015

She said: “I didn’t realise young people could have strokes. I’m still finding now when I tell people what has happened people can’t believe it –they say I don’t look like I’ve had one.

“I was shocked by how little hands-on support there is. I feel like a lot of the the time I’ve been disregarded because I'm younger. No-one really expects people like me, especially when you have children, to have a stroke."

Ms Hardman, now 32, was in the car with her then partner and four-month-old baby, when she first experienced symptoms.

“What followed was what I can only describe as feeling like I had been punched in the side of the head,” she said. “I felt violently sick. My line of sight was replaced by a white fog like cover. I felt dizzy and like I was spinning in a cloud-like dream.

“I knew almost immediately that something was seriously wrong and I needed to go to hospital."

The Northern Echo:

Pauline Hardman, 32, says people often do not believe she has had a stroke because of her age

After going to A&E at the University Hospital of North Durham, she was told she was having a migraine and was sent home.

Still unable to see two days later, she went to her GP who sent her for a CT scan, which indicated she may have had multiple strokes.

Four years later, she still has visual impairment and hallucinations.

Ms Hardman, who is supported by her partner John, is mum to 14-year-old Ashley, Jake, 12, Robin, 4, and two-year-old Fern, said: “Often the invisible side effects of stroke are just as hard to deal with as the physical. The fatigue, the confusion, the loss of independence, and in my case the loss of my vision."

“Being dismissive of something you can’t see is commonplace. It makes me feel like a second-class citizen.

"I'm belittled, told my opinion doesn't count, I can't possibly be relevant or right, because my brain is broken.”

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, “Due to patient confidentiality, we’re not able to discuss the care given to individual patients. We are, however, very sorry indeed that Ms Hardman is unhappy with the care she received four years ago.

"We would welcome an opportunity to meet with Ms Hardman to discuss her experience with her."

"She can contact our Patient Experience Team at any time on 0800 783 5774 or email them at: cdda-tr.patientexperiencecddft@nhs.net."

Ms Hardman received support from the Stroke Association.

Anyone affected by stroke can visit stroke.org.uk or call the charity's dedicated Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 to find out about support available locally.