'£1 saved my life and found me love'

'£1 saved my life and found me love'
From BBC - December 7, 2017

This love story starts with a girl who collapsed on a Brighton street and a boy who took a bus using a borrowed 1 which would later save his life.

Simon and Becki lived in different corners of the country. They both had a stroke when they were young. They overcame disappointments and both had to learn to live with newly-acquired disabilities. Years later, they would meet by chance and fall in love.

Becki's stroke: 2 February 2011

Becki Cobb was 21 in 2011 and about to start her final term at university. She had just returned from a visit to Paris to see a friend and decided to walk to her part-time job at a clothes shop in Brighton.

"It was a beautiful sunny morning, but after 20 minutes I started to feel really light-headed. I had an apple in my bag, but as I tried to bite into it I dropped it and then fell onto my knees and I just could not get back up.

"I felt like I'd fainted but I was conscious."

She was found by two policemen who were concerned how unwell she looked, but Becki kept telling them she had to get to work. They said they would take her, but only if she was able to get into the car by herself.

"I could not open the door. My left-hand side was getting paralysed so it was getting very weak and all my muscles were stopping. I remembered lying on one of their laps because they were saying 'you need to keep talking to us' but I was just so tired.

"The policemen told me I was saying things that did not make sense but in my head I was talking perfectly coherently."

An ambulance was called and Becki was in hospital within 20 minutes, but her memory remains blank until 22:00 that night. She has relied on other people to fill in the gaps.

The hospital contacted her parents in Lincolnshire and told them to get there quickly because it was not known if Becki would survive.

The medical staff were mystified. Although Becki was showing symptoms of stroke, they held back from that diagnosis because, at 21, she would have been unusually young to have one.

To rule it out, they called-in a consultant on her day off. When she examined Becki, the consultant confirmed the medical team's original thinking. It was a stroke.

Simon's stroke: 3 November 2004

Simon Commins was 17 and studying for his A levels in Chester in 2004 with plans to be an engineer. He skipped class early that afternoon to get to his job as a swimming pool lifeguard.

He decided he'd go to the gym before his shift and borrowed 1 from a friend to pay for a bus ticket. He says that, at the time, he was not aware the pound would save his life - had he been penniless and forced to walk, he may not have been near anyone who could help him when he needed it.

Just before he reached his stop, Simon began to feel light-headed.

"It was as if there was a loss of conscious control. The second I stood up my legs felt really heavy, every step felt like I was getting heavier and my vision was getting quite bad."

He got off the bus and made his way to a wall outside an Army careers building. He sat down and tried to call his Dad but his vision was so bad he could not see the keypad and kept dialling the wrong numbers.

"I started to panic. I put my bag down on the floor and laid down and tried to go to sleep because I could not figure out any other way to get out of the situation."

Inside the recruitment building, two men were watching Simon on CCTV and went out to ask if he was ok.

"I could not respond because the stroke was affecting my speech. I managed to write the word "ill" on a piece of paper and they called an ambulance."

Medical notes

At 21 and 17 Becki and Simon were unusually young to have a stroke.

It was determined that Becki's was caused by a blood clot which passed through a hole in the heart between the two upper chambers which had failed to close as normal when she was growing up. The resultant hole is known as apatent foramen ovale (PFO).

Little did Simon know, but the daily nosebleeds he'd been having were a sign that he had a genetic disorder called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT). This stops some blood vessels from developing properly and they build up with blood, known as arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). These AVMs were in Simon's brain where they ruptured, causing a haemorrhage and stroke.

According to brain injury charity Headway, about 130,000 people are admitted to hospital each year in the UK with stroke - about 300 of those are aged under 25.

Warning signs include face drooping, difficulty in lifting the arms and slurred speech. It can also include a sudden, intense headache, dizziness, vision problems and confusion.

Becki: 'I was paralysed'

Becki spent 48 hours in intensive care, five weeks in hospital and four weeks in rehabilitation. She still has physio every two weeks which keeps her "ticking along".

"I had to learn how to walk again.I was paralysed down the left side so I had facial drop. I suffer fatigue still and, at the beginning, my friends would come and visit me and I'd just fall asleep."

Becki still ca not use her left hand and struggles to walk - sometimes a few steps around her London flat is all she can manage - "I do still make a few improvements, but it is a lot slower."

At the time, the stroke was a surprise, but when she looks back, Becki thinks the signs may already have been there.

She had begun to experience dizziness when she leaned her head back. And on the day she returned from her trip to Paris, she went to the pub with friends where she believes another symptom may have shown itself.

"I had half a cider and got really drunk, really, really drunk. I was thinking I should not be drunk like this, but you ca not go to the doctors and say 'I have had a cider and I feel drunk'."

Less than 24 hours later she was in hospital.

Simon: 'I did not really know who I was'

Simon spent four weeks in hospital. He had lost 25% of his eyesight and his cognitive behaviour was impaired. He has aphasia - difficulties with language - and finds it hard to plan and remember tasks.

"My personality changed when it happened. I did not really know who I was anymore in terms of my identity. I felt like I did not have one and I needed to build that up again."

Simon says that, after the stroke, he became more aggressive because he was frustrated by the situation and, to add to this, the aphasia had taken away his ability to voice an opinion.

"At the beginning, even if I thought of something, words got lost at the point of speaking. Physically, I could do everything that I could before, but cognitively I was way behind. This was the time when I felt the most alone."

The extent of the situation did not fully hit home until the night he returned from hospital and found he was not able to read his five-year-old brother's storybooks. He realised this was the very low level at which his reading would have to start again.

Simon spent months working hard at his reading, writing and talking and says his brain has now re-wired itself to communicate using language.

"My brain continues to improve," he says. "However, instead of saying exactly the right words, it skirts around the topic as close as possible."

Doctors have been keeping an eye out for further AVMs, the malformations which caused that initial hemorrhage. He has since had surgery to remove others - two craniotomies and a radiation beam - but it's a continual worry that more will develop.

Bad timing

As well as having to come to terms with their new bodies and work on their recovery, they were also at that crucial point in their lives when they needed to shape their futures. At this stage, however, they still did not know each other.

A different student life

A chance meeting

My other half


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