Stroke victim, 29, battles back

Christopher Hunt
Christopher Hunt

A STROKE victim who had a six-inch section of his skull removed during life-saving surgery today spoke for the first time about his battle back to health.

Christopher Hunt, 29, needed the emergency operation to relieve the pressure on his brain after collapsing at his mother’s house on Christmas Day. As medics battled to save his life, Christopher’s striken family were warned to prepare for the worst as they kept a bedside vigil.

But amazingly, just over a month later, he returned home and is now battling back to full health.

Speaking about his ordeal, Christopher admitted: “There was a time when I didn’t think I was going to make a full recovery but I think my stubbornness helped me through it.”

Hairdresser Christopher suffered an ischemic stroke, which happens when an artery to the brain is blocked.

It affected his speech and initially he couldn’t move his left arm or leg.

Christopher, who needs to have a titanium plate fitted in his skull, said: “I haven’t had a day off ill since I was 16 so I really didn’t expect to suffer a stroke at 29.

“I can’t remember too much about the stroke itself, it was just like I wanted to sleep.

“The really scary part was realising what I couldn’t do and I feared I wouldn’t get my touch back in my arm and leg.

“It was scary having part of my skull removed, it is like having a large soft spot but you get used to it.”

It is believed to have been caused when he dropped and then caught a weight at the gym, which led to him tearing the lining of an artery in his lower neck.

A blockage cut off the blood supply and led to brain cells dying, which eventually resulted in the stroke.

Christopher, who ironically quit smoking last year and started going to the gym to boost his fitness, added: “Looking back, I feel a huge sense of relief that it wasn’t worse.”

He thanked his partner, family and friends for all their support and the medical staff who helped save his life.

The drama started last Christmas Day when Christopher, who runs the Contemporary Salon, in Middlesbrough, collapsed in his mum Susan Hunt’s house at 5pm.

His sister, Stephanie Hunt, 24, found him slumped in the upstairs bathroom “dripping in sweat”.

Medics rushed him to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, ahead of a critical 48-hour period due to major concerns he could have a cardiac arrest or that swelling in the brain could crush his brain stem.

As a result of his condition deteriorating, Christopher was transferred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, in the early hours of Boxing Day and at 1am on December 28, he had a major operation, known as a decompressive craniectomy.

Christopher had a six-inch diameter section of his skull removed to ease the pressure on his swelling brain and his family were warned he could be in hospital for six months.

But after a month and three days, including two weeks on the high dependency unit, he was allowed home.

Partner Karl Owens, who lives with Christopher at their Marina flat, in Hartlepool, described it as a “harrowing experience”.

The 27 year old, who works in catering at the University Hospital of North Tees, said: “We didn’t know if he was going to come round from it.

“It was a waiting game and that was the worst part because with a stroke you are not sure who you are going to be left with.

“It is amazing how quickly he has bounced back.”

Stephanie, who lives in Stockton Road and works for Virgin Media, said: “We had said goodbye to him twice in the space of 24 hours and we are just relieved more than anything he is still with us.

“The fact he is doing so well just makes you realise how important family is.”

The chances of suffering a second stroke are said to be slim and he receives regular physiotherapy from the community stroke team at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and takes medication to prevent clotting.