For many people, Valentine’s Day is a day for bunches of roses and chocolates and sometimes a marriage proposal. For Ernesto, it’s memorable for another reason.
“It was 2006 and I was at a Valentine’s Day party at a friend’s house. At some point I went out for a smoke. When I came back in, I had a terrible headache. My friend joked it must’ve been the brand of cigarette.”
As the night progressed, the headache worsened.
“Eventually all I could do was head home. I remember trying to pick up my car keys off the bench but kept dropping them which was strange. My friend ended up giving me a lift home.”
By the time Ernesto arrived home, he was slurring his words.
“My parents, with whom I was living at the time, first asked if I was drunk. But when one side of my face started drooping, they decided to take me to hospital. Thirteen days later, I woke up in a hospital bed with my mum crying beside me.”
Ernesto had experienced a stroke and had been placed in an induced coma after a 13-hour brain operation.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a bit of a party animal. I had been smoking for years. But I was young - 24 years old - and thought I was invincible. The risk of having a stroke had not crossed my mind.”
Recovery was slow but steady. Ernesto had to re-learn to talk, walk and write.
“I recall the doctor holding up a pen and asking me what it was. I kept thinking, ‘yeah that’s a pen’, but I couldn’t translate that thought into speech. I couldn’t say the word ‘pen’.”
It took nine months before Ernesto could return to work.
“I never smoked again, after that Valentine’s Day. I quit cold turkey. I still have the full packet of cigarettes I purchased that day. I keep it as a reminder. I love life too much to die from smoking.”
To learn more about stroke and hear from other stroke survivors about their experiences, visit Smokes can lead to strokes.