‘I thought symptoms were my drink being spiked on a hen night - so truth was a huge shock’

Joanne after the stroke. (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)
Joanne after the stroke. (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)

A woman thought she had been spiked on a hen party night out - before discovering her symptoms were actually caused by a stroke.

Joanna Whitelaw, 27, was celebrating her friend’s upcoming nuptials, in her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, in May, when her body ‘’suddenly went numb’’ and her vision blurred.

Friends rushed her out of the bar, fearing her drink had been spiked, and got her boyfriend to take her home - where she spent the rest of the night being sick.

The following day, Joanna went shopping but grew concerned when the vision in her right eye didn’t return.

She was also experiencing pins and needles down the right side of her body - so took herself to A&E at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.

Medics were baffled when three CT scans couldn’t find anything, but an MRI eventually revealed that Joanna had suffered a stroke.

Further tests revealed it had been caused by an undiagnosed hole in her heart and she was scheduled for surgery.

Joanna, an administrator for private investors, said: “It was a huge shock when I was told it was a stroke.

“I was having the best night - playing games and having a good time with friends.

“It was until I was in the club, and I didn’t feel right and thought I’d been spiked.

“I’m an otherwise fit and healthy person – I go to the gym and run regularly.

“I’ve never had any other symptoms, so it came as a huge shock.’’

Joanna was out celebrating with friends on May 6 at a bar called Fingers when she suddenly felt “really strange”.

She feared her drink had been spiked and alerted her fellow hens who helped her call her boyfriend, Callum Elliot, 33, an engineer.

Joanna Whitelaw taking a selfie (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)
Joanna Whitelaw taking a selfie (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)

She said: “The lights were flashing and thought it was playing tricks on my eyes.

“I told my friends and when we got outside, one whole side of my body felt numb.

“I couldn’t feel my bag on my shoulder and kept asking if it was there.

“I told my friend I was seeing two of her.

“We all worried I had been spiked and they got me home ASAP.”

The following morning, she got up, ‘’went about her day’’ and even went for a walk and to the shops.

However, her symptoms continued, so she went to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to get checked out on May 8.

She said: “When I woke up, the feeling had come back in my right side, so I thought I was fine and had slept it off.

“But my vision still wasn’t back to normal – I had no peripheral vision in my right eye.

Joanna Whitelaw with bride to-be Carrie. (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)
Joanna Whitelaw with bride to-be Carrie. (Joanna Whitelaw / SWNS)

“I still didn’t feel right in myself, so I went to A&E.”

At first, medics couldn’t find the cause of her symptoms but kept her in overnight on the stroke ward, suspecting she had suffered one.

During her three-day stay, Joanna underwent an MRI which found a blood clot in her brain.

The findings confirmed she had suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain.

Joanna said: “It was really shocking to hear.

“I exercised six times a week, I never smoked and don’t particularly drink.

“I had no trigger signs or warning leading up to it.”

Joanna went home and returned to hospital on May 29, 2023, for further scans.

During an echocardiogram - a heart scan - doctors discovered a hole in her heart.

She said: “It’s where the clot originated and travelled up to my brain.

“I most likely had it from birth, and it showed no symptoms until now.”

On June 9, 2023, Joanna went for an operation to close the hole in her heart.

She has since undergone one session of physiotherapy and is trying to regain her strength.

Joanna was due to travel abroad with the hens for a holiday but was unable to fly around the time of surgery.

Joanna said: “Doctors told me that between three and six months after a stroke is the hardest, and it will gradually get better.

“I still haven’t regained all of the feeling back.

“I’m having to re-learn things like going to the gym – feels out of body.

“I’m really lucky I had lots of support around me.

“I just want to make people aware of the symptoms.

“I thought it was being spiked and the next day, I still didn’t suspect a stroke.

“Hopefully it can help other people get medical help quickly.’’