Aged 23, journalism student Jameel was enjoying a catch up with mates in the pub. He woke the next day with what he thought was the world’s worst hangover. What he didn’t realise was that he’d had a stroke in his sleep.
Jameel Razak, now 25, is studying at Leeds University with aspirations of being a journalist. In March 2022, just eight weeks away from finishing university, he came back to his home in Norton during the Easter break to spend some time with his family and friends.
After a night in the pub and a few pints with mates, he woke up in bed the next day with a splitting headache and sickness – sure signs of a hangover. But he noticed something was wrong when he tried to stand up and collapsed to the floor.
Jameel said: “I was pretty confident that I’d wake up tomorrow after a sleep and I’d be good as new. Maybe it was just a little blip. So I persuaded my parents somehow to let me be for the night and not to worry.”
The following day, Jameel woke up and realised his symptoms had worsened. He had a ringing in his ear, struggled with his hand-eye coordination and the right side of his body was numb.
Watch Jameel’s story
My name is Jameel, I’m a 25 year old student studying journalism at Leeds University and I am a stroke survivor.
It happened last March when I had eight weeks left before graduating and I’d come so far in two and a half years, was literally at the very end. I was becoming a lot more independent, doing things myself and I remember feeling great, like it was a great time of my life really.
But it all got snatched away from me.
I still remember the day. It was 19 March when I came back home, I got a few friends and went to the local pub, we got home early hours of the morning.
In the morning after, I didn’t feel bad, I just felt very tired and a bit rough. Nothing out of the ordinary. And I checked the time and there was no way I was getting up at that time.
I didn’t wake up until 1pm. So I sat up in my bed and the first thing I noticed was the headache. I describe it as a triple headache, three in one attacking all sides of my head.
So I was thinking ‘how much did I drink last night?’
It wasn’t until I tried to step out of my bed and go to the bathroom that I just fell to the floor and my legs weren’t working I realized and I just couldn’t stop vomiting. I remember the main worry in my head was I am not getting this on my new carpet.
I was pretty confident that I’d wake up tomorrow after a sleep and I’d be good as new, maybe it was just a little blip so I persuaded my parents somehow to just let me be for the night so I remember waking up and the right side was basically completely numb.
And I realised that when I tried to touch my face and I just couldn’t feel anything and I realised, yeah it’s a lot worse and I told my parents and said you should probably ring an ambulance.
I feel like I’m sort of a different person since before the stroke now. With my uni work too because before the stroke I’d do the bare minimum and hope for the best. I always knew I was capable of doing it, I was just very lazy.
And it’s weird, after the stroke I want to take pride in things and I want to do my best in things. It’s shown me what I’m made of I guess because I didn’t think I could ever go through something like that and come through the other side a better person or even just a better version of myself.
The plan is to get my degree out the way and then just live, to just live.
Hospital treatment and the road to recovery
His parents rang for an ambulance and he was admitted to the stroke ward at the University Hospital of North Tees. Jameel received treatment on the ward for 17 days and continued his physical and cognitive therapy as a discharged patient at home.
Talking about his hospital stay, Jameel said: “I remember when I first came to hospital and everyone on the ward was in their 60s and 70s. I remember feeling so lonely so every time a nurse came round I was chewing their ear off.
“And in the end I was thinking ‘You know what, this hospital stay’s not that bad’. I was enjoying the conversations with nurses – it keeps you going.
“I will say to stroke survivors who are on ward 41 that you’re in good hands.”
Following a transoesophageal echocardiogram (an ultrasound probe which goes down the throat to check the heart), Jameel was found to have a small hole in his heart. It allows blood, and therefore any clots, to flow between his heart valves and into the body, including his brain.
Jameel recently underwent keyhole surgery at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to repair his heart, reducing his chances of a repeat stroke – something that gives Jameel a huge sense of relief.
A new lease on life after stroke
He is still in stroke recovery and suffering from some long-term symptoms, including fatigue and some cognitive impairments such as linking words to their meanings.
However, Jameel has a new lease on life. He has picked up where he left off at university and is focusing his energy on doing his best and taking pride in his work, where he used to ‘do the bear minimum and hope for the best’. He has even re-focused his final university project and is producing a 15 minute documentary about stroke and stroke survivors.
Jameel said: “Since I’ve had a stroke, the one thing I’ve noticed is that people aren’t as aware as they should be that young people can have a stroke. It’s given me a purpose and I want to create something that raises awareness and educates people, but also to show people in my situation that there’s life after stroke.
“I missed out on a lot last year. I was 23, becoming a lot more independent and doing things for myself. And I had it snatched away in an instant.
“Having a stroke has shown me what I’m made of. I didn’t think I could ever go through something like that and come out the other side a better person, a better version of myself.
“My plan now is to finish university and then just… live life.”