23-year-old Paramedic Has a Stroke When Cracking Her Neck And Mistakes the Symptoms For Being Drugged.

Natalie Kunicki decided to share her story with the world to clear a few misconceptions. Most people think strokes only happen to the old and elderly, but they are wrong. Last month, the 23-year-old paramedic who is based in West Hampstead, London, was watching movies in bed with a friend on a night...
Natalie Kunicki decided to share her story with the world to clear a few misconceptions. Most people think strokes only happen to the old and elderly, but they are wrong.
23-year-old Paramedic Has a Stroke When Cracking Her Neck And Mistakes the Symptoms For Being Drugged.

Last month, the 23-year-old paramedic who is based in West Hampstead, London, was watching movies in bed with a friend on a night out. Speaking to Mail Online, she said she hadn’t even been trying to crack her neck to work out any kinks. She only moved it sharply after sitting still for too long, and the worst happened. The vertebral artery in her neck burst at that moment, forming a clot in her brain which triggered a stroke. She wants people out there to know that something as simple as turning your neck with too much force can change your life forever.
“I wasn’t even trying to crack my neck I just moved and it happened,” she said. “I stretched my neck and I could just hear this ‘crack, crack, crack.’ My friend asked ‘was that your neck?’ But all my joints crack quite a bit so I didn’t think anything of it. I just laughed.”

As she got up and walked to the bathroom, she realized how unsteadily she was walking. It took her some time to figure out that her left leg wasn’t actually moving, and then she crashed to the floor.

“My friend had to come and pick me up,” she explained. “He thought I was drunk but I knew something else was wrong. I thought I had been drugged. The date rape drug can cause paralysis.”

Too embarrassed to call for help


As a paramedic, she didn’t want to dial 999 and have her friends turn up and see her supposedly drunk and messed up. She thought she could sleep it off, but when that didn’t work, she knew she had to call the emergency service while she still had the chance.

“I think they did look at me at first like they thought I was just a classic drunk 23-year-old but I told them I was a paramedic and I knew something was wrong,” she said.

At the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, the surgeons were able to repair Natalie’s arterial tear, but they couldn’t clear the clot in her brain. They reassured her that it would dissolve on its own in due time.
23-year-old Paramedic Has a Stroke When Cracking Her Neck And Mistakes the Symptoms For Being Drugged.

Depression and frustration

A stroke occurs upon the blockage or explosion of a blood vessel, which stops the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and usually forms a clot. Symptoms of a stroke include difficulty in speech and inability to form coherent thoughts, paralysis in the face, arms and legs, difficulty in movement, vision impairment, and headaches. The symptoms usually manifest immediately, and the effects can last for a long time.

“When the consultant told me I’d had a stroke I was in shock,” she explained. “The doctors told me later that just that stretching of my neck had caused my vertebral artery to rupture. It was just spontaneous and there’s a one in a million chance of it happening.”

Natalie’s left side had been almost totally paralyzed, and she was devastated that something so terrible could happen to her. She wasn’t a smoker or a drinker, and she had no family history of strokes. She became ‘emotionless’ for days on end as she described her mood, trying to figure out how her life could turn completely upside down in just 15 minutes. She even said to the consultant, who worried about suicidal tendencies afterward, “you should have killed me.”

“Depression is really common after a stroke because you lose so much of your independence and your dignity,” she said. “I expected to wake up from this miracle surgery and everything would be fixed but my mobility was worse and they couldn’t clear the clot. At the start, I couldn’t move my thumb and forefinger. I could kind of move my wrist up and down. I couldn’t lift my arm. I could bend my left leg but I couldn’t wiggle my toes.”

Recovery and financial difficulties

Natalie is on the mend, but she still has a long way to go. Daily exercise and physiotherapy have helped her recover some movement and sensation, especially in her left side. She can walk now but not for more than five minutes.

“I’m really clumsy. I can’t do up buttons, I find it too difficult,” she said. “I can feel hot and cold now but I still feel a bit numb. The doctors just say things like ‘we’re hoping for a full recovery’ and won’t give an exact time because they don’t want to get my hopes up. But I’m determined to get back to work as soon as I can. I just love it.”

Natalie wants everyone out there to know that the chances of strokes occurring in young people aren’t really that much of a stretch. She’s been called out as a first responder to several people suffering from strokes, and they’ve always been elderly people. If anyone had told her she could suffer the same condition at 23, she’d never have believed it.

“Mine was one in a million but a ruptured vertebral artery is actually quite a common cause of strokes in young people,” she said. “They will be in the gym or doing something quite physical and it happens. Strokes are also quite common in kids.”

Since she can’t work anymore, she was forced to move out of her WH apartment and move to her parent’s home in Harrow, London. They’ll be moving back to their native home in Australia come July.

Natalie is passionate about being a paramedic. She has a deep love for her job and colleagues, and she doesn’t want to leave everything behind and move home to Australia. A GoFundMe page was set up for her by her brother, Michael Kunicki, for well-meaning people who come across her story to contribute to her recovery.