A WEST FIFE woman has lost nearly four stone in weight after battling a stroke at 37 and long COVID.

Karen Barnes made the decision to turn her health around in July this year after suffering from a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) or 'mini stroke' and COVID in 2021 when she was just 37.

Sharing her story, she said: "In April, I was at work when I suffered a TIA, and lucky for me the nurse I was working with recognised the symptoms. Reacting quickly, she got me medial support. The diagnosis was that I had suffered a TIA and am suffering from Carotid Artery Stenosis.

"I was told I was at risk of further strokes due to the stenosis and its pathway to my brain. Fragments could start to break away, which could cause future issues. I was so scared to even move that my health started to deteriorate rapidly, and weight started to increase dramatically.

"Having experienced a stroke at 37, that left me with significant speech difficulties to overcome, I was so frightened and felt completely isolated – it felt like it was like having a timebomb inside me and I could die at any moment."

A TIA is caused by the temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain and while it does not last as long as a stroke, it does cause sudden symptoms that are similar, including speech and visual disturbance, and a numbness or a weakness in the face, arms and legs.

Despite fearing for her life, Karen had just begun making improvements when she was struck again with another medical issue. She caught COVID and was hospitalised and bed-ridden.

She continued: "Although life carried on, for me it was with an extreme apprehension and fear. I was making improvements but then fell ill with COVID. Life was more of an existence trying my best to make sure that I wasn’t doing anything that could dislodge the blockage in my artery, but I was becoming heavier and much less physically capable as now I found breathing difficult.

"Having caught COVID, I was hospitalised. I couldn’t get enough breath, and it really did feel like the end for me. I was bed-ridden requiring 100 per cent oxygen provision from a CPAP Machine while in the High Dependency Unit, and later, the infectious diseases wards. The NHS teams were fantastic but my sense of fear of what might happen continued to dominate my days.

"I felt completely immobilised and scared.”

Karen struggled while battling COVID, so much so that sitting up was a challenge. She experienced weight gain and low mobility and she was diagnosed officially with Long COVID. She was at a low point in her life, however, all that started to change when she joined her local Slimming World at the City Hotel and began losing weight.

Spurred on by the milestones in her life, her daughter's wedding and the birth of her grand-daughter, Ruby, Karen lost a whopping 3st and 10lbs. She now has all the energy she needs to chase after her grand-daughter.

She added: "Despite my Carotid Artery Stenosis and Long COVID diagnosis, my weight loss has now enabled me to swim 100 lengths of the Carnegie pool five days a week, and can carry out my daily routines and housework without losing breath and feeling absolutely floored.

"Before losing weight, my chest always felt heavy and my legs and joints ached all the time. I wasn’t very active at all, even a short walk to the shop would take me forever, if even possible. Now I walk everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I still have breathing difficulties that catch up with me now and again, however, in the main, I am much more capable than I thought I ever would be again.

"The old me would never have believed I could do what I do now."

She praises the work of her Slimming World consultant, Samantha Moat, and the rest of her group who keep her motivated.

Samantha said: "There’s no better place for support to help put you in control than a Slimming World group, where there will be absolutely no judgement – just understanding, trust, friendship, community spirit and lots of fun and laughter."