‘Not being able to lift my wine glass turned out to be a sign of a stroke’

Phineas Harper was unable to lift their wine glass and this turned out to be a sign of a stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS)
Phineas Harper was unable to lift their wine glass and this turned out to be a sign of a stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS)

When Phineas Harper reached for their glass of wine, they noticed their left arm "wasn't working". They didn't realise it at the time but the loss of movement turned out to be a sign they were having a stroke.

The 35-year-old writer and sculptor from Greenwich, London was at an art exhibition when they started to lose feeling in the left side of their body and the ability to speak.

An ambulance was called and Harper was rushed to the Royal London Hospital.

There doctors discovered a "small hole which had allowed a blood clot to enter the heart" - known as Patent Foramen Ovale' (PFO), which had caused the stroke.

Harper was given anticoagulant medication, underwent multiple blood tests and an MRI before being discharged 48 hours later.

Harper first realised something was wrong on June 6 when they went to sip their glass of wine and describes not being able to lift it.

"Luckily my right arm was fine so I could contact 111, who then sent an ambulance, suspecting it to be a stroke," they explain.

Paramedics arrived and ran some tests before "blue lighting" Harper to hospital where further tests revealed they had a small hole in their heart which allowed micro blood clots to enter.

Harper says their doctor told them that while everyone gets blood clot, they usually "go into the lungs and dissolve".

"Luckily, the clot I had dissolved quickly," they add.

"Stress can be a trigger for strokes, which I had been feeling a lot recently, but I was very relaxed that day – I had been to a sauna - I also didn't feel any pain," Harper adds.

Harper, 35, pictured at the Royal London Hospital after their stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS)
(Phineas Harper/SWNS)
Harper, 35, pictured at the Royal London Hospital after their stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS) (Phineas Harper/SWNS)

Harper says their first thought was "panic" that they would not be able to continue working if they lost use of their limbs.

"I was worried I would never be able to sculpt again," they explain.

"My initial thought was panic that I could not continue what I do, I felt fortunate that I am right-handed.

"But thankfully after a few minutes I was able to speak again and within a couple of hours I was able to move my hand and fingers," they continue.

"I am now back home with complete use of everything.

"But I know some have been through this and still cannot use their arm.

"The neurologist told me that it is more serious for younger people to experience a stroke as it means there is an underlying condition."

Harper had an MRI following their stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS)
Harper had an MRI following their stroke. (Phineas Harper/SWNS)

Harper will now have to undergo surgery to seal the hole using a "clever umbrella" which is inserted into the heart.

"Thankfully it's a common surgery - they can do it with their eyes closed," they add.

"Luckily I have no known lasting health issues from that night."

A stroke is a type of cerebrovascular disease that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

It is a medical emergency and it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to lessen the effects of the stroke.

According to the Stroke Association, around 100,000 people in the UK have a stroke each year, and it results in around 38,000 deaths annually. There are around 1.3 million stroke survivors living in the UK.

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of a stroke can be remembered by using the acronym FAST:

  • F for Face: If someone’s face droops on one side, they are unable to smile or their mouth or eye has dropped this could be a sign of a stroke.

  • A for Arms: If a person is having a stroke they may not be able to lift both of their arms and keep them there and may feel weakness and numbness in one arm.

  • S for Speech: If speech is slurred or garbled, or someone cannot speak or can suddenly not understand what you’re saying, this could be a symptom of a stroke.

  • T for Time: Call 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is restricted or stopped. There are two main causes of strokes: ischaemic and haemorrhagic.

  • Ischaemic is responsible for 85% of strokes and is when the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot.

  • Haemorrhagic is when the weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.

Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and irregular heartbeats can increase someone’s risk of having a stroke.

It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as you notice the symptoms of a stroke as this can increase your odds of recovering from it and lessen the injury to your brain.

Strokes are generally treated with medicine to prevent and dissolve blood clots, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Surgery to remove a blood clot may also be required.

Additional reporting SWNS.