An Isle of Wight mum, who collapsed with a blood clot, days after giving birth to her first child, is sharing her story with Isle of Wight County Press readers, after receiving her Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine.
In 2019, aged just 27, Maxine Bucknall had a seizure at home in bed, which was followed by two more – one in the ambulance and one in the emergency department at St Mary’s Hospital.
Twelve days before, she and husband Ewan had welcomed their baby son, Caspian, into their lives.
“The blood clot presented itself in my brain 12 days after I had my little boy,” she explained.
“I was on blood thinning injections for ten days after I gave birth but, on day 12, my husband woke up to me having a seizure.
“I was diagnosed with a blood clot on the brain – like a really rare type of stroke.
“They had to call specialists at a hospital in Southampton for advice, because they hadn’t experienced a case on the Island.”
She was take to St Mary’s Hospital in Newport.
Maxine remembers nothing of what happened in the hours after her collapse.
Piecing together the story from what she has since been told, she said: “I had stroke symptoms: Loss of movement – especially in my right hand – and I couldn’t talk.
“They asked me what the day was and I said, “Oh I know this one! It’s got the same name as one of the months.”
“I had a CT scan, which showed something on my brain and then I went for an MRI, which showed the blood clot.
“That’s when they diagnosed it as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST).”
Maxine has since been diagnosed with a blood disorder that had lain undetected.
Left behind, in charge of a brand new baby, was husband Ewan, for whom Maxine has nothing but praise.
She said: “It was our first child. My husband had never been around a newborn before.
“Luckily, we have a very supportive family – on both sides.
“For the first couple of nights, my mum took Caspian, so my husband could spend the night with me in hospital.
“After that, Ewan went to stay at his parents’ home, with Caspian.
“I had had to stop breastfeeding, so he was trying to get our son used to formula.
“Ewan was an absolute pillar of strength. Thank God our son’s got him for a dad.
“He did go above and beyond and he kept himself strong for everyone.”
Maxine, Ewan and their son, Caspian.
Maxine is also full of praise for the NHS staff at St Mary’s hospital who cared for her.
In a world before Covid-19, she was the youngest person on the hospital’s dementia ward – staying for a week, to start her recovery.
“They let my husband stay with me,” she recalls.
“My baby was allowed to come and visit me whenever. They couldn’t have been better.”
“I quite enjoyed the lounge. They’ve got it all done up like a living room, with newspapers from the 1940s, celebrating the end of the war.
“I was completely out of it – but I was having a lovely time.”
Maxine, now 29, continues to take medication and describes the experience as a ‘memory’.
Her determination and positive attitude to life has allowed her to take a traumatic experience and share it – in the hope it will help someone else.
She said: “It ruined a year of my life – when I should have been creating memories with my new child.
“I was so scared that I was going to have another seizure.
“My family were baby-sitting me. They were working out rotas, because I was so terrified it was going to happen again.
“My husband had to go back to work and I was scared I was going to die and leave my newborn.
“It was not a good place to be.”
Finally, as everything was getting back on track, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
It has meant life has not returned to normal for Maxine and her family, but she says she is making the best of it and considers herself ‘incredibly lucky’ to be able to tell her tale.
She told the County Press: “I always say ‘it had to happen to someone’ and I am happy it happened to me, because I can talk about it. I can warn people of the dangers.”
In the ‘new normal’, Maxine has returned to work and is allowed to fly, when coronavirus allows.
“I’m incredibly lucky to still be here today and to be able to tell my story,” she said.
“I am that one person in however many million. I always wanted to be one in a million, but I never thought it’d be this way!”