AFL Champion Jeff White Shares Story Of Stroke Survival
By Jeff White on 11 April 2018
Mine is a message for anyone who is suffering pain or felt that something was ‘not quite right’ physically and simply brushed it aside. I want to share my own experience and raise awareness, in the hope that it is shared with others who may be reluctant or putting off getting a medical check up.
Those who know me know the values I hold; respect, kindness, family, passion, energy and humility. A value that’s been added to this list since 31 August 2017 is gratitude.
It was this day that my life changed. I was on my way home in the car to get my son ready for his last footy training session of the year. During the car ride I felt inexplicably strange and angry. As many men do, I simply self diagnosed these feelings as being tired.
While standing in the laundry as my son was getting ready for training, I felt as though someone was leaning against me from the right. I turned my head to notice my right arm paralysed in a horizontal position, palm facing down. I could see it but I couldn’t move it. I quickly yelled for help and then used my left hand to gently hold and squeeze my right arm, but still felt nothing. I lay down on the floor as previous ‘passing out’ spells I had experienced caused me some damage, on account of falling from my 6 foot 5 height.
Over the last decade I have suffered from dizzy spells that would often eventuate in me passing out. I have learned to manage these and the symptoms that brought them on, but the laundry episode felt different.
As I lay there on the ground, I regained feeling in my right arm. All of a sudden I felt normal again. But hang on, what just happened?
My wife rushed home and immediately forced me to go to the doctor. This brought about several tests over the next month and eventually led to the neurologist telling me that I had a stroke!
I was devastated. I returned to my car and sat there crying. I’m forty years old. How did this happen? I had responded ‘NO’ to all the common things that can bring on a stroke, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, blocked arteries and drinking. Why did this happen to me?
The first thoughts that hit me hard were for my beautiful family, my wife and the kids. I took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts and headed off to an important meeting. I walked into the meeting to find out that I had lost the deal. This news only added to my devastation.
It was following this additional setback that I decided to take stock and write down all the things I can control. My health, doing things that make me happy, whatever I thought about I listed down. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. What’s important is that you learn from it and action what you can control, accepting the things that are outside of your control.
For several months awaiting the results I was living each day in fear. How was this stroke caused? What if it happens again and what if it’s a big one?
After many more tests it was discovered that I had a hole in my heart. Thanks to my wife’s insistence to go to the doctors, we were able to find this out. Although medically they can’t tell me what caused the stroke, we do know that the hole in my heart helped it along. A blood clot had built up and instead of going through my heart and being filtered through my lungs, it popped out of a 2mm hole on the right side and travelled straight to my brain.
During my 14 years of playing professional football, with all of the training, all the stress on my body and all those amazing moments of joy, I had no idea what I was living with. I have always been a hard worker and never taken anything for granted, but since suffering a stroke I am even more grateful to be alive. I am especially grateful for my health, my family and my friends.
I was shit scared in the week leading up to the operation, but I am now sitting here, post-op with a new little microchip under my skin to monitor for future dizzy spells. I appreciate everything I have in my life right now more than ever before. I focus on what I can control. I focus on inspiring kids through my business Post High. I focus on being a wonderful father, husband and friend.
On that day, on the floor of my laundry, my life changed forever. The big guy from above handed me a golden ticket and said ‘Son, your time’s not up but you need to check things out’. Life is a gift. Action the parts of your situation that you can control, focus on your passion to make a difference and 100% commit to it. This is my daily motto.
My life was millimetres away from being life changing for the worse. Trust your instincts and follow your heart.