A 17-year-old college student who was given a 50 percent chance of surviving a stroke has graduated and is determined to enter the medical field to help others.
Izzy Hirst, from Hull, collapsed in the hallway at home in December 2017 and was rushed to hospital where doctors found a blood clot in her brain.
The clot is thought to be a rare complication of an undiagnosed case of ulcerative colitis, a condition in which the colon and rectum become inflamed.
Izzy believes her ulcerative colitis had been dormant but was made worse by the stress of being implicated in the Manchester Arena terror attack seven months before her stroke.
Bright future: Izzy Hirst, far right, was given a 50 percent chance of survival after suffering a stroke at the age of 17. She has completed her studies and is determined to get into medicine to help others. Pictured: Izzy with her sister Bex, father Richard and mother Gill
Izzy Hirst collapsed in the hallway at home in December 2017 and was rushed to the hospital, where doctors found a blood clot in her brain. Pictured: Izzy in hospital after stroke
This in turn led to the stroke that paralyzed the right side of Izzy’s body.
She was only given a 50 percent chance of survival, and her loved ones didn’t know if she would make it.
She underwent physical therapy and it took three months of hard work before she could walk on her own. Now Izzy has graduated from university, passed her driving test and is embracing her independence.
She said: “It’s hard because you know you can walk and you know what your brain is asking of your leg and you don’t usually think twice about it.
“You spend a lot of time every day doing what you’ve taken for granted for 17 years.
She continued: ‘[Driving] is one of the nicest feelings because I lost a lot of independence from the stroke and that was a big thing that I wanted to regain.
“I’ve always relied on other people to take places, hospital appointments and stuff like that for me. It’s just another piece of independence that I got back.”
Izzy’s loved ones didn’t know if she would make it, but Izzy, pictured, underwent intensive physical therapy and was walking on her own within three months. She recently passed her driving test and is now starting her own business
WHAT IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
WHAT IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition in which the large intestine (intestine) and rectum become inflamed. It affects around one in 420 people living in the UK.
Small ulcers, which may bleed and produce pus, may develop on the lining of the colon.
Symptoms include recurring diarrhea that may contain blood, mucus, or pus, abdominal pain, and the need to empty your bowels frequently.
Sufferers may also experience fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
WHAT CAUSES ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system — the body’s defense against infection — malfunctions and attacks healthy tissue.
The most popular theory is that the immune system, mistaking harmless bacteria in the colon for a threat, attacks the tissues of the colon, causing it to become inflamed.
Exactly what causes the immune system to behave this way is unclear. Most experts believe it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
(Information about NHS)
On May 22, 2017, Izzy, her mother Gill and her best friend were among the concert-goers when a suicide bomber detonated a device at an Ariana Grande performance in Manchester. They were on the other side of the arena when the bomb went off.
She said: “You heard the bomb and it’s like the whole stadium went silent, it was really scary. In my memory, this silence felt like it lasted for a while, but in reality it was probably a few seconds. I heard people screaming from across the stadium and everyone started running.
“I took my dad on the phone and it’s just one of those moments that you think will never happen and I couldn’t hear him because there were too many people but I yelled into the phone, ‘Me love you tell everyone we love them and we’re ok’ because we didn’t know what was going to happen. We just wanted him to know we love him.”
Although it’s likely that Izzy had undiagnosed ulcerative colitis before the terrorist attack, she had no symptoms of the disease.
Izzy graduated with a first class degree in Biomedicine and will begin her Masters in Associate Studies for Physicians in September
However, she developed mild symptoms after the attack, which worsened when she returned to Wolfreton School & Sixth Form College in September.
It’s unclear if the Manchester experience led to her illness, but Izzy believes the stress made her dormant ulcerative colitis worse and caused a flare-up.
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the colon and rectum. The immune system mistakes good bacteria in the colon for an infection. This causes healthy cells to be attacked by the body.
A rare complication is cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a type of blood clot that Izzy had in the brain that caused the stroke.
After the stroke, Izzy took a nine-month break from education before returning to complete her studies.
Five years later, Izzy has now earned a first class degree in Biomedicine from Hull University and will begin a Masters in Doctor Associate Studies at Hull York Medical School in September.
Izzy also won an award for her dissertation examining the association between cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and ulcerative colitis.
She said: “I’ve wanted to do medicine since I was 11, I think as soon as I knew doctors were a thing. I’m not sure why, I think maybe it’s because I had family members who grew up sick and I saw the doctors taking care of me, which affected me.
“As a patient, you are seen by so many different people, and people stick in your memory for different reasons. That’s when you realize how vulnerable you are as a patient. I know about it and I can help someone in that position because I’ve been in that position.’
Izzy’s mother Gill, 52, added: “With a brain hemorrhage in Izzy’s case, you can be sitting up one minute and walking the next. It can go that fast. As a parent, it was the hardest time in my life.
“She’s an amazing force. She has always been a go-getter and an overachiever. I think because she has this tenacity to push forward and that served her well when all of this happened to her. She’s kind of a girl with a half full glass. She never stops.”