Woman battles with sudden partial paralysis

21:08, Mar 25 2013
Zoe Lindsay
AFTER: Zoe Lindsay yesterday. She was struck by a mystery illness in July last year and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Nine months on from when Zoe Lindsay was left wheelchair-bound after random seizures on her 21st birthday, doctors still cannot explain what is wrong with her.

Lindsay should have been celebrating her foray into adulthood on July 8 last year.

But instead, the former head girl of Timaru's Mountainview High School and recipient of a Canterbury University emerging leaders' scholarship spent her 21st birthday in a hospital bed.

Zoe Lindsay
BEFORE: Student Zoe Lindsay on a camping holiday on New Year's Eve 2011, before she was hit by a mystery illness.

Now she is completely paralysed on her left side and is still searching for answers.

When the seizures hit, Lindsay was diagnosed with epilepsy and prescribed anti-epileptic medication.

But things only got worse.


"On a Sunday in mid-September I had gone to work as I usually did in the weekend at the children's ward at Christchurch Hospital," Lindsay said.

"I finished work, bussed home, visited some friends, then texted Mum and said I wasn't feeling well and lay down. When Mum got no more response from me, she rang my flatmates to check on me."

Her flatmates found her in her room, weak with facial droop and slurred speech, and rushed her to hospital.

By the next morning, and with no explanation, Lindsay was completely paralysed on her left side.

With doctors baffled and unable to provide a diagnosis, Lindsay was later transferred to Burwood Hospital's brain injury rehabilitation services (BIRS) ward where she spent five weeks doing physiotherapy, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy.

As well as being paralysed on one side of her body, she has only partial vision in her left eye.

"Throughout this time I lost a lot. I had to drop out of university just a few exams before graduating. I had to cancel an overseas trip with a friend that we had planned months before. I missed out on graduating and seeing my friends graduate," she said.

"I couldn't return to my flat and I didn't get to say goodbye to those who finished their degree. I felt like life went by without me and I couldn't do anything about it."

On leaving Burwood Hospital, Lindsay returned to Timaru to live with her parents and resumed studying towards her degree from a distance.

She relies heavily on her parents for support and her mother has given up her job to provide fulltime care.

She will be assessed by an international neurologist visiting Christchurch in two weeks and Lindsay hopes he might provide some answers.

"It has been the most trying time of my life and one that's not over. They aren't sure if or when I will walk again, although I am absolutely determined I will," Lindsay said.

She has not let the illness disrupt her plans to become a child and family psychologist.

Instead, she said, she was thankful.

"I think I'm kind of blessed to have this experience.

"Because it's going to be so beneficial for working as a psychologist."

Lindsay recently set up an online donations page to raise money for the BIRS ward at Burwood Hospital and hopes to reach $1000.

"My time at Burwood set me up for this journey. They taught me to be positive and strong, and gave me the tools I need for this road I'm on. I know I wouldn't be where I am now without each and every one of those staff on that ward."

Click here to donate to Lindsay's fundraiser for the BIRS ward.

The Press