AT 28, Sarah Ryan was a young mother with everything to live for.
She had a three-month-old daughter, Bethany, and life was good.
But one night in April 2008 everything changed when the former Warrnambool woman suffered a debilitating stroke.
After having dinner with her husband and friends Ms Ryan had what felt like a migraine and pain in the right side of her neck.
“I thought to myself I can’t really turn up to emergency with a headache,” she said.
Ms Ryan went home and took Panadol and continued to breast feed throughout the night.
At one point she woke in the night. Her left hand was “tingly” and she couldn’t feel her fingers.
In hindsight, she recognised the symptoms as a key warning sign of a stroke.
At 3am she got up and fed her daughter. It would be the last time she ever walked properly again.
Four hours later she got out of bed but collapsed on the floor. She had lost the ability to use her legs, one of her arms and the left side of her face was droopy.
An ambulance was called and eventually she was taken to The Alfred hospital where she had an emergency craniectomy which removed a piece of her skull.
Ms Ryan remained in hospital for about four weeks. She was then placed in a rehabilitation unit for six months and learnt to walk again.
It was after her second stint in rehabilitation therapy that it became apparent Ms Ryan would not be able to adequately care for her then 15-month-old daughter because of her physical limitations from the stroke.
In another crushing blow, Ms Ryan went into a residential care facility, where she lived with mostly elderly residents.
“I was eating sloshy food and just biding my time there,” she said.
“There was one other young person there. I just watched old people die.”
She said the motivation to get out of the care facility and to get well was Bethany.
“I knew if I got my own place I’d be able to see her,” she said.
Today, Ms Ryan is living independently in Melbourne and Bethany, now five years old, sees her regularly.
“Physically I’m a lot better,” Ms Ryan said.
“I still can’t use my left arm. But I go to the gym and I go swimming.”
She was initially given a wheelchair, which she shunned, and was told she would never walk again.
But earlier this year she proved everyone wrong when she finished the 5km walk in The Age Run Melbourne.
“I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made in the past five years,” she said.
Ms Ryan is an ambassador for the Summer Foundation for Stroke Week which ends on Sunday.
The foundation works to resolve the issue of young people living in nursing homes.
It’s estimated there are 3042 people under 60 in nursing homes in Australia.