Flight Lieutenant Sara Howarth was just 40-years-old when she suffered a life-threatening bleed to the brain. Now just two years on, doctors have found another anomaly in Sara's brain. In this blog, Sara shares her story.
For Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Sara Howarth of Brighton, turning 40 wasn't what she had expected.
In July 2014, Sara suffered a life-threatening bleed to the brain, caused by a ruptured aneurysm, which left her with permanent cognitive and speech issues, weakness to her left side, and short term memory loss.
Sara says: "The haemorrhage was a rarer type of stroke, not what you expect when you're 40 so I have weakness and cognitive issues. A lot of people lose a part of themselves after a stroke. I am very fortunate because I kept all of my personality, including my sense of humour!"
Sadly, in May this year, Sara received further devastating news that she was suffering from a vascular anomaly, known as an arteriovenous malformation. But despite this, Sara has taken on a 5k Color Run in Brighton in an effort to raise funds for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the charity that has supported her throughout.
The RAF Benevolent Fund was first able to help Sara back in 2014, with a grant during her rehabilitation. Nine months after her haemorrhage, Sara developed epilepsy, which further knocked her confidence as it dramatically affected her independence.
Once again, the Fund stepped in and was able to assist Sara with the purchase of an epilepsy watch. The motion-sensor Smartwatch sends alerts to pre-prescribed contacts to notify them of when Sara is having a seizure.
Sara, now 42, says: "This really helped me on the self-confidence side. I was very scared to leave my flat just in case I had a seizure. Now, if I have a generalised seizure it will text my dad and the GPS function will tell him where I am. I am so much more confident in doing everything on my own."
In May of this year, the Fund further supported Sara and her family by providing a welfare break for them at its respite facility, Princess Marina House, on the South coast in West Sussex.
Sara says: "It was brilliant to get my whole family, including my parents, sister and niece, in a beautiful house where we can just enjoy everybody's company without having to worry about anything."
As an RAF Personnel Officer for 17 years, and based at RAFC Cranwell, Sara has seen first hand the breadth of support the Fund offer and so she was eager to give something back to the charity.
Team Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, made up of Sara, her sister Kate Becker, eight year-old niece Eva, and friend Sarah Davis took on the 5k seaside challenge, raising more than £1,800.
Sara says: "Once I got through the start it was brilliant, we all enjoyed it. Eva and Sarah even did a section skipping. It's a brilliant event because everyone can take part."
"The highlight was definitely taking part with my family and friend; I wouldn't have got past it without them."