Mother is in a wheelchair after having a stroke at 29 weeks pregnant

Wheelchair-bound mother, 24, was left paralysed after having a stroke while 29 weeks pregnant which left her in a coma for 10 days fighting for her life

  • Claire Winnett’s arm started shaking uncontrollably on September 6
  • Pre-eclampsia triggered high blood pressure that led to a bleed on the brain 
  • Forced to give birth via C-section, daughter Sienna born weighing just 2lb 40z 

A mother was left paralysed and nearly died after she suffered a stroke while 29 weeks pregnant. 

Claire Winnett was enjoying a normal pregnancy until her arm started shaking uncontrollably on September 6.

The 24-year-old was rushed to hospital, where medics discovered her pre-eclampsia had triggered a bleed on her brain. 

Miss Winnett was forced to give birth via C-section, with her daughter Sienna being born at 29 weeks, weighing just 2lb 4oz.

The new mother was then immediately rushed to surgery where doctors tried to relieve pressure on her brain.

Although the operation was a success, Miss Winnett spent 10 days in an induced coma recovering, only to wake to find herself paralysed, which is a common side effect of stroke. 

After two months in hospital Miss Winnett was finally allowed to take her daughter home on November 9, but is still confined to a wheelchair.

Claire Winnett was left paralysed and nearly died after she suffered a stroke at 29 weeks pregnant. She is pictured holding her daughter Sienna for the first time when the newborn was 12 days old. Miss Winnett was put in an induced coma for 10 days immediately after the birth

Miss Winnett’s pre-eclampsia triggered her stroke. She is pictured left after her C-section as doctors wheeled her to surgery to relieve pressure on her brain. Sienna (right), who weighed just 2lb 4oz when she was born, spent five weeks in neonatal intensive care

Miss Winnett’s partner Adam Jones, 30, called 999 when she suddenly developed a shaking arm at home. 

She was rushed to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where an MRI revealed a bleed on her brain. 

Miss Winnett was then transferred to Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, where doctors discovered she also had deep vein thrombosis and a blood clot.

Medics then broke the news she would have to have a C-section the following day. 

‘I felt like my world had come crashing down when I realised I had a stroke,’ Miss Winnett said. ‘I just couldn’t believe it.

‘The doctor said I could have died but before they could operate they wanted to save the baby.’


Pre-eclampsia is defined as the onset of high blood pressure with proteinuria during pregnancy.

Proteinuria describes abnormal levels of proteins in the urine, which indicates kidney damage.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can trigger a stroke by damaging and weakening the brain’s blood vessels, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak.

Hypertension can also cause blood clots to form in arteries to the brain, which blocks blood flow and may also trigger a stroke.

Pre-eclampsia is considered one of the major causes of stroke during pregnancy.

The condition raises a pregnant woman’s stroke risk by four times. 

However, just one per cent of women with severe high blood pressure suffer a stroke in the six weeks after they have given birth. 

Yet pre-eclampsia sufferers are more at risk of a stroke in later life.  

Miss Winnett was therefore forced to have a C-section on September 7. 

‘She was all weak and floppy when she was born,’ she said. ‘She was tiny. It was horrible for us. We had no idea what to do and how it would turn out.’

Sienna was immediately handed over to her father, while Miss Winnett was taken to surgery. 

While Miss Winnett was put in an induced coma, Sienna spent the next five weeks in neonatal intensive care.

The ordeal of nearly losing his partner and newborn daughter took its toll on Mr Jones. 

‘It was absolutely horrible for me,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know what to think or how to feel.

‘I honestly didn’t think Claire would make it. They told me she might not make it through the surgery. I had to pray for Claire.’

However, both mother and daughter managed to pull through. 

‘They said we were both lucky to survive,’ Miss Winnett said.

‘It’s so rare for this to happen during pregnancy.’ 

‘I was absolutely over the moon when I saw them both for the first time,’ Mr Jones said. 

‘I broke down when I saw Claire.

‘She was covered in blood and bandages. It was awful to see.’

Although she recovered, Miss Winnett (pictured left feeding Sienna) has limited movement and is confined to a wheelchair. She is forced to wear a protective helmet every time she leaves the house due to a huge swelling on her brain. Sienna (right) now weighs 13lbs

Miss Winnett (pictured left holding Sienna with the swelling on her head visible) is due to have surgery in the next six months for a bone graft that will strengthen the part of her skull doctors operated on. Pictured right in hospital, Miss Winnett felt ‘trapped in her own body’

Miss Winnett was barely able to move when she came around from her coma and only got to hold Sienna for the first time when she was 12 days old, with doctors laying the newborn on her chest.

‘It was absolutely horrendous,’ she said. ‘I felt trapped in my own body.

‘I couldn’t talk and could only move my right hand. 

‘The only way I could communicate was by using my thumb.’

But overtime both Miss Winnett and Sienna got stronger, with the youngster now weighing 13lbs.

Miss Winnett also began rehabilitation therapy to teach her how to move her muscles. 

Although home, Miss Winnett can still only wriggle her toes but is expected to make a full recovery.

‘I’ve got no idea how long it will take before I can move properly or walk again,’ she said. ‘I’ve only just been able to wiggle my toes again.

‘I had to completely retrain my brain and had to have therapy to teach my muscles how to move again.

‘It’s been really difficult. I just want to be able to do the things I used to be able to do.’

Miss Winnett is forced to wear a protective helmet every time she leaves the house due to a huge swelling on her brain.  

She is due to have surgery in the next six months for a bone graft that will strengthen the part of her skull doctors operated on. 

But despite all she has endured, Miss Winnett insists it was worth it to have her daughter.

‘If I’d have survived without her I’d have felt guilty,’ she said. ‘She is helping me to get stronger. 

‘I want to get better for her. I want to be able to play with my daughter.’ 

And while Miss Winnett recovers, Sienna is thriving. 

‘Sienna was so tiny when she was born, and we had a couple of scares along the way but she’s a normal, happy and healthy child now,’ Miss Winnett said.

‘You wouldn’t be able to tell she was premature.’

Miss Winnett (pictured left in hospital with Sienna) can only just wriggle her toes and has to relearn how to use her muscles. She is pictured right after surgery on September 7 last year


Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, which can be deadly for both a woman and her unborn baby if untreated.

It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure is typically normal. 

The most effective treatment is an early delivery; usually via C-section.

However, this may not be best for the baby if it is early on in the pregnancy. 

Pre-eclampsia affects about 25,000 women in England and Wales each year, and four per cent of pregnancies in the US.

It can have no symptoms if it develops gradually rather than coming on suddenly.

A blood pressure reading above 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) on two occasions is usually the first sign.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Blurred vision, temporary loss of sight or light sensitivity
  • Upper abdominal pain, particularly under the ribs on the right side
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Reduced urination
  • Shortness of breath due to a build up of fluid in the lungs

Sudden weight gain, and swelling in the face and hands, are also symptoms, however, these can occur during normal pregnancies. 

Pre-eclampsia is thought to begin in the placenta when its blood vessels narrow and do not react to hormones properly.

This reduces the amount of blood that flows through them.

Its underlying cause may be genetic, due to a problem with a woman’s immune system or existing blood vessel damage.

A woman is more at risk if she, or a member of her family, suffered from pre-eclampsia before.

The risk is also highest during the first pregnancy, and if a woman is over 40; obese; black; having a multiple birth, like twins; or conceived via IVF.

Existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines and kidney disease also raise the risk.

If untreated, pre-eclampsia can restrict a baby’s growth or cause it to be delivered early.

The placenta can also separate from the uterus wall, which can lead to severe bleeding.

A woman may also suffer seizures, organ damage and even heart disease as a result of untreated pre-eclampsia.

Although treatment is usually inducing labour, if it is too early to deliver the baby, medications may be prescribed to lower a woman’s blood pressure.

There is no clear advice on how to prevent pre-eclampsia, however, research suggests taking a low-dose of aspirin and calcium supplements may help. 

Pregnant women should talk to their doctor before taking any drugs or supplements. 

Source: Mayo Clinic 


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