Lisa Ross, 35, from Cumbernauld thought she had a migraine after bending down to pick up light weights during her usual body pump class.
Two days later she was rushed to A&E where medics detected a brain aneurysm behind her right eye – this ruptured and she suffered a stroke. Three days after that Lisa was hit by a second stroke.
She admits her recovery was tough but has now found a new lease of life and encourages others to not give up.
She said: “It still baffles me to this day how I went from fine to nearly dying in one week.
“I was miserable for months afterwards but I really feel lucky now to still be here and it makes me cherish my family and the little things in life even more.”
Brave Lisa spoke of her incredible journey ahead of her presentation at the annual Head Injury Information Day in Glasgow where brain injury survivors and professionals access the latest advice – especially families and loved ones who also experience the aftermath of a brain injury.
The aneurysm struck the mum-of-two on March 2, 2017 during her gym class. But it wasn’t clear until two days later when agonising pain forced Lisa to visit hospital.
A CT scan confirmed a catastrophic brain bleed and Lisa was transferred to a special unit at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
Medics operated and successfully stopped the bleed but two days later swelling from the surgery caused a second massive stroke.
Part of Lisa’s skull then had to be removed to ease the swelling and save her life.
Lisa was unresponsive and moved to intensive care leaving her family and mum Lorna Watson, 65, fearing the worst.
The retired travel agent said: “I can’t describe the fear. It’s something no parent wants to experience. Seeing Lisa lying there with all those tubes and wires and her head bandaged up just broke my heart.”
When Lisa finally woke 10 days later she couldn’t walk, talk or swallow.
The devoted mum even failed to recognise her sons Kalvin, 11, and Connor, five, on the first day she woke.
But after a recovery programme Lisa was discharged from hospital four months later and reunited at home with husband Richard Ross, 35, to whom she’s been married for eight years and was at her bedside every day.
Former RBS customer service agent Lisa said: “I remember coming home and constantly thinking ‘Why me?’.
“There’d be endless days of sitting on the couch doing nothing. This low period lasted for months and months. It wasn’t until Kalvin one day said out of the blue, ‘I’m so glad you made it through this mummy’.
“That was my wake up call. It made me realise life doesn’t stop after a brain injury - it’s simply a new beginning.
“Realising the support network you have around you and that you’re not alone and have a purpose encourages you to keep going.
“My love and appreciation for Richard and the boys has never been greater and I now do everything I can to help others in the same situation.”
Lisa’s mum Lorna also paid tribute to her son-in-law, adding: “Richard was incredible – he was there for the kids and Lisa in a way that no man would ever expect to be.”
Unfortunately Lisa lost her peripheral vision so can no longer drive and was left with restricted movement in her left hand.
But amazingly, she is back in the gym as she continues her selfless work to help others via mentoring work with charity Momentum Scotland.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in my recovery which was only possible thanks to the support from my husband, friends and family.
Chris Stewart of Digby Brown Solicitors will host the Head Injury Information Day and give a nod to those who support loved ones through trauma.
He said: “Survivors of an acquired brain injury can experience changes to mobility, employment and even their personality. With so much change it is no surprise that family members can find themselves doing things they never thought they’d have to.
I believe there’s a lot that everyone can learn from such compassion.”