It was a bank holiday weekend and mum-to-be Lucinda Allen was enjoying a few days off work.
26 weeks pregnant with her first baby, Lucinda, 38, had been told she was suffering from gestational diabetes – something she was managing through diet and exercise.
‘On this particular Saturday morning, I checked my blood pressure - which was low - so decided to get back into bed,’ Lucinda says.
Snuggled up with her husband, Tony, one thing led to another….
Soon, waves of pleasure were surging through her body… peaking once, then twice… As the waves subsided, Lucinda felt a familiar sharp pain in the head, just above her right eye.
‘I’ve experienced what’s known as post-orgasm ‘thunderclap’ head-pain’ all through my adult life,’ explains Lucinda, ‘so I really wasn’t worried. The pain I usually have after orgasm is a bit like brain-freeze – quite painful but never lasts long.’
But, on that fateful day, the pain wasn’t the same. ‘It started the same,’ Lucinda, from Stourbridge, UK, recalls, ‘but after a while, I realized it just wasn’t going away.’
As the pain radiated through her head, Lucinda thought that perhaps it was the start of a really fierce migraine, so decided to try to sleep it off.
But there was no way she could sleep - the pain was too severe. ‘I was writhing on the bed in agony and crying when Tony phoned my mum,’ she says.
Lucinda’s mum insisted they call an ambulance immediately.
‘That’s when I started to panic,’ remembers Lucinda. ‘That’s when I thought I might be having a brain haemorrhage. After that, it was a blur. All I remember is confusion, dreams and reality mixed together, fear…’
At hospital, Lucinda - unable to speak at this point - frantically gestured to nurses for a pen and paper.
As she was being wheeled into the Critical Care, she scrawled ‘cerebral haemorrhage???’ onto the piece of paper she’d been given. As an occupational therapist with a 20-year career behind her, she had some medical knowledge.
It turned out Lucinda had diagnosed her problem correctly. Scans showed that she had, indeed, suffered a brain haemorrhage.
She was put into an induced coma before undergoing brain surgery.
The doctors were worried that the baby was going to need to be delivered and there was an emergency delivery team on standby. Fortunately, further scans revealed that, despite the dramatic turn of events, the baby was fine. The family was told that the unborn child was a girl.
After six days, Lucinda finally emerged from the coma.
‘Waking after a coma is nothing like it is in the movies,’ says Lucinda. ‘It’s a slow and confusing process. I was extremely distressed – suicidal at times – and I refused to acknowledge that I‘d survived a stroke.’
But it wasn’t just a single stroke Lucinda had survived – she found out later it was actually a series of strokes she’d suffered: one initial stroke, followed by four more while scans were being performed.
As she slowly recovered she realised life would never be the same again.
'I am totally paralysed down my left side. I’m a full-time wheelchair-user,’ Lucinda sighs.
After a further three months in hospital, she was allowed home for two days, then after that she was straight back in for a planned C-section. Husband Tony was by her side all the way through.
Baby daughter Marri-Alice was born beautifully perfect and healthy on 19th November 2012 and is now a cheeky, energetic 5-year-old.
‘Marri-Alice is an amazing little girl,’ she says of the daughter who’s blissfully unaware of all that’s happened. ‘She’s incredibly bright, has hit all her milestones early, could recite the alphabet at the age of three and has a naughty but sophisticated sense of humour. She’s such good fun. It’s clear that what happened to me hasn’t affected her at all.’
Lucinda would love to run around the park with her daughter like the other mums do with theirs, but because she’s now wheelchair-bound, that’s just not possible.
It is now five years since that awful day and Lucinda often wonders whether what happened to her could have been prevented.
She’s speaking out about this now despite finding it all a bit embarrassing, as she reckons other people could be suffering from the same condition and, instead of taking it as the warning sign it is, are just presuming, as she did, that’s it’s nothing to worry about.
‘Nobody talks about post-orgasm head-pain,’ she says, ‘and that’s understandable. I mean, it’s not one of those subjects you discuss over dinner, is it? But, because of what’s happened to me, I am now on a mission to raise awareness.’
Life is no longer as it was for Lucinda and her family and is certainly not how she expected it to be, yet she still feels fortunate.
‘I’m lucky to be here at all,’ she says. ‘And what happened has changed me for the better. I appreciate every moment and, after the birth of my daughter and the amazing support my family and friends have given me, I now have a better understanding of what real love is.’