Gemma Aims For Bristol Half After Stroke At 29

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A woman who had to learn to walk and talk again after she suffered a stroke when she was just 29-years-old is set to take on her biggest challenge to date after signing up to the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon.

Gemma Green, from Axbridge in North Somerset, was about to start university in July 2011 when she was admitted to Weston General Hospital after losing function in the right side of her body.

Her speech was severely impaired and after being put through a series of tests, a scan confirmed that she had suffered a blood clot to the brain, resulting in a ischemic stroke.

The news was a complete shock to Gemma as she was only 29 and had started taking the contraceptive pill Microgeon in early February of that year.

She lost the ability to speak properly and had to learn how to walk and talk again. She also had to put her plans of studying for a degree at Bath Spa University on hold.

After a four year recovery, Gemma has now managed to regain her swallowing function. She has also been under the care of councilling, speech therapists and psychologists.

She still suffers with mobility problems in her right side along with blood pressure problems but is determined to not let her condition define her.

After completing two memory works for the Alzheimer’s Society, Gemma decided to set herself her next challenge of taking part in a half marathon.

She has signed up to the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon, which takes place in the city on Sunday 23 September.

Gemma, who is now 36, said: “The response to my stroke was complete shock and disbelief as I was only 29. Mentally I was in disbelief and angry for a long time.

“Initially I had to learn to walk and talk again and I was exhausted all of the time, my personality completely changed.

“Speaking was very difficult and draining so I learnt to just listen to people. I became very emotional and had no control of them. I struggled to communicate and understand people.

“I would have random blackouts. I couldn’t listen to music as the sound hurt my ears, reading hurt my eyes, watching TV was painful. I had no control over my bladder at all due to the damage on my brain.

“Right sided weakness meant I had to use walking aids and assistance. I also lost the ability to swallow and I had to have thickening agents added to all fluids in order for me to stay hydrated.

“During my stay in hospital, I was told I wouldn’t be able to walk and talk properly again and that I would never gain a degree, which was a goal of mine as I was due to start university that September.

“Pyschologically, the effects were very hard. I have been been through a 16 week intense programme for emotional intensity disorder and have suffered from depression.

“I decided to sign up to the half marathon after I took part in two memory walks in memory of my Nana. I was looking for a new challenge and a new goal.

“I wanted to do something positive to show that I could do it, regardless of how long it takes me to cross the finish line. I just want to prove it to myself.”

Gemma will join 10,000 people who will take on a challenge at the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon. Thousands are set to take on 13.1 miles through Bristol’s awe inspiring surroundings, whatever their pace or motivation.

The run starts and finishes in the city centre, heading out along the Avon Gorge and passing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge twice. Gemma, who works in retail, says that taking up running has helped her combat her high blood pressure and improved her mental wellbeing.

She added: “My training for the half marathon has not been without its challenges.

“I have changed my medication which meant I was unable to train for weeks at a time but partner Dan has my rock throughout training and never gave up on me despite all the darkness that was around me.

“I am not yet at a full running pace but I am aiming to jog and walk the distance and most importantly cross the finish line.”

To support Gemma’s fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society, visit:

Entries for the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon are open. Enter at: