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Module 03

Sonia Liddiard

Module 03: Sonia Liddiard
Teaching notes
“I know it can be very uncomfortable for a healthy person to try to communicate with someone who
has had a stroke, but I needed my visitors to bring me their positive energy. Since conversation is
obviously out of the question, I appreciated when people came in for just a few minutes, took my
hands in theirs, and shared softly and slowly how they were doing, what they were thinking, and how
they believed in my ability to recover.”
Jill Bolte Taylor, “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey”
Here is some information about Stroke from the Stroke Association UK about the risks and causes
of stroke:
Are you at risk of stroke?
Anyone can have a stroke, although there are some things that make you more at risk than
others. It’s important to know what the risk factors are and do what you can to reduce your risk.
Many people think that strokes only happen to older people but stroke can strike anyone at
any time. Whilst most people who have a stroke are older, younger people can have strokes too,
including children. One in four strokes in the UK happen in people under the age of 65.
But some people are more at risk than others and there are factors that can increase your chances
of having a stroke, so some people are more at risk than others. It’s important to know what these
factors are and do what you can to reduce your own risk.
What makes you more at risk?
Most strokes happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Blood clots usually
form in areas where our arteries have become narrowed or ‘furred’ up by fatty deposits. As we get
older, our arteries naturally become harder and narrower. This increases the risk of them becoming
blocked and causing a stroke. However, there are other factors that can speed up this process, or
make our blood more likely to clot. Some we can change, others we can’t.
Risk factors you can’t change
Your age
The largest number of people who have strokes are aged over 55, and the risk increases as you
get older. This is because our arteries naturally become narrower and harder as we get older.
Your ethnicity
If you are South Asian, black African or black Caribbean you are at a higher risk of stroke than
other people in the UK. It isn’t completely understood why this is, but it’s probably connected to the
fact that you are more likely to have conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Family history
If a close relative (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) has had a stroke, your risk is likely to be
Genetic conditions
Certain genetic conditions can cause strokes. Sickle cell disease, for example, is a genetic
disorder that affects your red blood cells and makes them more likely to block your blood vessels.

None of these factors mean that you will necessarily have a stroke, but it’s important to be aware
of them and do what you can about the factors you can change.
Risk factors you can change
There are many risk factors for stroke that can be changed. With simple checks your GP can help
to identify whether you have these risks and help you to make the changes necessary to reduce
your risk of stroke. Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of stroke. These include:

high blood pressure
atrial fibrillation
high cholesterol

An important way to reduce your risk of stroke is to find out if you have any of these conditions
and work with your doctor to manage them.
Lifestyle factors
The way we live has a big impact on our risk of stroke. Things like:

drinking too much alcohol
being overweight
eating unhealthy foods

These can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure and make your blood more
likely to clot. There are lots of simple changes you can make to your lifestyle that can reduce your
risk of stroke.
Risk factors for women
There are some other factors that can increase the risk of stroke in women:
High levels of the female hormone oestrogen can make your blood more likely to clot. Your
oestrogen levels rise naturally when you are pregnant, but there are also hormone treatments that
will cause it to rise, such as contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Generally the risk of stroke due to pregnancy or hormone treatments is low, but if you’re
concerned, or have any other risk factors, make sure you talk to your GP about it.
Some studies have shown that women who have certain types of migraines are at a slightly
higher risk of having a stroke.

Module 03: Sonia Liddiard
Handout 01 – Sonia’s Story
Sonia Liddiard was born in Italy but moved to France at an early age. She studied Sociology in
France before moving to England to work at the University of Leeds as a French Language Assistant.
She met her husband there and stayed in England. She has 4 children. She suffered a stroke
several years ago which has fundamentally changed her memory. She can no longer remember new
information that she is presented with although her memories from before her stroke are unaffected.
Read/Listen to the following account from Sonia about the occurrence of her stroke:
“I had a brain haemorrhage and therefore a brain injury. That’s it. It happened, to be honest, it’s
almost impossible to believe but I was in the shower and everything went black. And I screamed
my head off and my little girl came to the bathroom and she said ‘Mummy what’s the problem?’ I
said ‘Go and tell Daddy I cannot see anything anymore’ and then I thought, silly woman, my little
girl was about two and a half and I thought she’s going to run down the stairs, my husband couldn’t
hear me because he was preparing the breakfast and all that. And er...obviously what happened I
found out subsequently is that the haemorrhage, the blood was running between the function of the
eyes you know and that’s why I suddenly became - felt like I was becoming blind and that’s why I
screamed and called my daughter. Well my daughter came, I didn’t call her. I called my husband but
he couldn’t hear me, he was preparing breakfast, bless him. Well that’s what happened and then
after that he, as soon as he came to see what was going on, because he did eventually understand
the situation, he started calling the ambulance and nobody would come because they were all taken
up. Addenbrookes [hospital] is such a busy place so he drove me to the hospital as well he could
– as he could - and we arrived there and as, I kept phoning - he had his mobile with him - he kept
phoning the hospital even though the ambulance couldn’t make it, he said he’d let them know what
was going on, he was going on, and the fact that he was taking me, that he was bringing me there
to them. And when I got there the surgeon came out of the operating room and he said, it’s ready
for you madam. I thought ah are you sure, I didn’t want to go I panicked then! And anyway that’s
it, basically it was an aneurism to give you the medical term. And it had burst and the blood was
running and that’s why I thought I was becoming blind and screamed in the shower, the blood was
running in front of a function of my eyes, not my eyes but the function you know where the vision
is placed in the brain. And that’s it and so they operated on the aneurism and that’s it, thus far. And
thank goodness I got away so well: I have got my left side is a bit impaired but compared to what
could have been, I could have been paralysed and I really am grateful to the doctors that looked
after me there, did a brilliant job. That’s it, that’s my story.”

Module 03: Sonia Liddiard
Handout 02 – Information sheet
Here is some information about Stroke from the Stroke Association UK:
How does a stroke happen?
For all the different parts of our body to work properly, they need a good supply of blood. This
blood carries the oxygen and nutrients that our bodies need to work. It is pumped around through
tubes called blood vessels. When someone has a stroke, it means something has stopped the
normal blood supply to the brain. Most strokes happen because a blockage stops the blood flow to
the brain. Sometimes, though, a stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts and causes bleeding
in the brain. When blood doesn’t reach parts of the brain, these parts become damaged and cannot
work properly. The brain controls everything we do, so when a stroke happens it can make it harder
to do normal, everyday things like walking and talking. Although a stroke can happen to anyone, it
usually happens to older people.
Why do strokes happen?
Some people are more likely to have a stroke than others. This could be because they have
medical problems like high blood pressure or heart problems. Keeping healthy, for example not
smoking, not drinking too much alcohol, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and doing some exercise,
reduces the chances of someone having a stroke. Sometimes people think that a stroke happens
because the person had an accident or a nasty shock, or because they were upset about something
like an argument. These things don’t cause strokes. It’s never anyone’s fault when someone
has a stroke.
What effects can a stroke have?
The brain controls everything that our bodies do by sending messages to its different parts. After
a stroke, the brain can stop sending these messages to parts of the body. This often means that
people who have had a stroke can’t walk or move in the way they did before. They may need to
use a wheelchair or a stick to help them walk, or they may not be able to use one of their arms
as well as they used to. A stroke can make ordinary things like talking, reading and writing more
difficult. Sometimes it makes it harder for the person to understand what other people are saying
to them. They may even say words that don’t make sense. It doesn’t mean they are being silly
or stupid – it just means that the part of their brain that controls speaking and understanding isn’t
working properly. Sometimes people who have had a stroke forget things you’ve just told them, or
the things they always used to remember. They may not remember where they have put things like
their glasses. Or they might forget someone’s name or what they did yesterday. There are lots of
other effects that a stroke can have. Some people may have trouble seeing things properly. Others
may not be able to eat or drink properly and may need to be given food through a tube into their
stomach. People who have had a stroke usually feel very tired and want to sleep a lot. They may
not want to talk to other people nor have too many visitors. This is because their body needs to rest
to help them get better. Sometimes it can help if there are only a few visitors and they don’t stay
too long. Some people who have had a stroke become very emotional. They may cry because they
feel sad about things and sometimes they cry because they just can’t help it. Sometimes they can
laugh when you don’t expect them to or when you don’t think they should. They have these feelings
because of how the stroke has affected their brain. These changes often get better in time.

It’s normal for people who have had a stroke to feel frustrated and upset, especially if they can’t
speak properly or need to learn to do things again, like getting dressed. Sometimes it is hard for
other people to understand all the effects a stroke can have. The person who has had a stroke
may not look different from before. If you break your leg, you may get a lot of sympathy because
other people can see what has happened to you. You can’t always see the ways a stroke can affect
someone and because of this, people who haven’t learned about stroke may say the wrong thing.
That’s because no-one has told them about how the brain is in charge of everything we do – such as
how we move, speak and express our feelings.

Module 03: Sonia Liddiard
Handout 03 – Worksheet
Your name:
1) What aspects of a person’s lifestyle can increase their chances of having a stroke?

2) Get into a small group with the people around you and discuss the effects of a stroke upon an
individual. What are these affects and what could you do to assist a person who has suffered a
stroke? What sort of things would they need help with? Write down the things they may struggle
with and what you could do to help them in the columns below.
Things they need help with:

How could you help them:

Module 03: Sonia Liddiard
Handout 04 - Comment sheet
Your name:
My comment on the audio/transcript