For Tam Nestler, August 17 last year began like any other day.
After going to work, picking up her two children, Seth and Noah, from school and making them dinner, the now 30-year-old from New South Wales was in the process of getting her youngest ready for his shower when she fell backwards onto her bed and started to feel dizzy.
The mother-of-two and part-time model would later find out she had suffered a devastating stroke, which would leave her unable to talk, walk or feed herself for months.
Here, in the hope of raising awareness that strokes can happen at any age, Ms Nestler shares her story with FEMAIL – including the emotional wedding ceremony, which saw her wed her childhood sweetheart in the hospital garden.
Tam Nestler (pictured), 30, from New South Wales, suffered a devastating stroke at age 29 – she is now trying to raise awareness, particularly in young people
The mum-of-two, who is now married to her partner, Nick Plummer (both pictured), shared her story with FEMAIL – she suffered her stroke as she was preparing one of her sons for bed
The stroke left the now 30-year-old unable to talk, walk (pictured) or feed herself for months – she went through rehab and has been walking since last Christmas
She also wed in an emotional hospital ceremony, which took place in the garden (pictured on her wedding day)
‘Our sons carried the rings, which was extra special, and then everyone gathered in the ward to celebrate with platters and gifts afterwards,’ she told FEMAIL of the day (pictured)
When Ms Nestler had her stroke, she fell backwards onto her bed and was rushed to hospital – days later she had an emergency surgical procedure on her skull which saved her life (right)
By the time she fell backwards onto her bed, Ms Nestler said she had experienced little warning of what was to come:
‘It was like any other day,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. ‘I was a busy working mum, I’d done a day at work as a retail store manager and was at home with Seth and Noah.
‘When I fell over, I remember feeling dizzy and as though I had vertigo.’
Initially, Ms Nestler did not think she had suffered a stroke (pictured before)
Worried, the mum-of-two called out to her partner, Nick, who immediately realised something was wrong.
By the time they got to hospital, Ms Nestler spent five hours in emergency, before she was reviewed, admitted overnight and discharged the next day.
‘It was strange, I went home and slept for nearly two days on and off while family members looked after me and woke me to make sure I had enough food and water,’ Ms Nestler remembered.
‘No one knew what was wrong – I was like a zombie.’
On the second day, when Nick got home from work, Ms Nestler told him she felt as though she couldn’t move.
‘We rushed back to the hospital, I was diagnosed as having had a stroke – and then I was airlifted in a plane to Melbourne where surgeons would be able to treat me.’
However, when she was discharged with a suspected ear infection, went home and slept for two days, she thought something was wrong – then the 30-year-old couldn’t move
After her surgery, Ms Nestler has gone through rehab – and has benefitted from the support of her family (pictured with her sons)
‘It was hard especially with Seth and Noah. I was there one day and the next I was gone from their lives,’ she admitted (pictured with Seth and Noah)
The next few days and weeks passed in a blur for the mum-of-two, who recalled her shock upon being told she’d had a stroke:
THE SYMPTOMS OF STROKE
* FACE: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
* ARMS: Can they lift both of their arms?
* SPEECH: Is their speech slurred and can they understand you?
* TIME: Is critical.
Source: The Stroke Foundation.
‘I remember saying to my doctor: “Does that mean I can’t work?”.’
Once she was in Melbourne, Ms Nestler had surgery on her brain to remove some of her skull and save her life.
She then spent a few days in an intensive care unit, before beginning the long road of rehab.
‘I tried not to think about what had happened to me,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t walk, talk or feed myself.’
While Ms Nestler said that both her own and Nick’s family were incredible – ‘my cheerleaders who took turns to feed me’ – she admitted it was hard:
‘It was hard especially with Seth and Noah. I was there one day and the next I was gone from their lives.’
Ms Nestler is now determined to raise awareness of stroke – particularly for young people – as she said it’s not something she knew much about (pictured before)
Slowly and steadily, she has learned to walk again – first assisted and then alone (pictured since with her sons)
Ms Nestler and Nick Plummer had planned on eloping to Sydney to get married before she had had the stroke, and after three weeks they found themselves thinking ‘what are we waiting for?’.
‘We decided to wed in a new location – the hospital gardens,’ Ms Nestler said. ‘And so, we made appeals to people who could help us, marry us and donate anything they could.
‘Within two weeks, we were married – just five weeks after I’d had the stroke.’
Ms Nestler’s memories of her wedding day are filled with happiness:
‘We just had both of our families and a couple of close friends present,’ she said. ‘Our sons carried the rings, which was extra special, and then everyone gathered in the ward to celebrate with platters and gifts afterwards.
‘It was nice, because everyone stopped working in the hospital temporarily for the ceremony to celebrate. It was just a special day.’
The stroke has put Ms Nestler’s life into perspective – but she said she is thankful because she has her life
Just a few weeks after she had her stroke, Ms Nestler got married – her two sons carried the rings to the ceremony in the hospital gardens (pictured: her sons)
Moving forwards towards the present – and just over a year after Ms Nestler’s life changed forever – the mum-of-two said she has slowly and steadily been getting various areas of her life back:
‘By last Christmas, I was walking again slowly, and in May, I started being able to drive again.
‘Weirdly, it’s been my speech that’s been the hardest – in dark moments, I always think to myself I’d have all these other problems if only I could have my speech back to normal.’
Ms Nestler is now determined to raise awareness about strokes – especially in the lead-up to National Stroke Week in September:
‘I feel awareness is at a minimum because there is nothing in the TV or magazines,’ she said.
‘If you want to find anything out, you have to actively research it. I was shocked to find stroke is the second biggest killer in Australia. It’s so important to recognise the signs of stroke and act fast.’
Ms Nestler concluded by saying that she feels the stroke has put her life into perspective.
But rather than be downbeat, she said it has taught her just how important life is:
‘I am going to keep getting better and stronger,’ she said. ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’
National Stroke Week is taking place Monday 4 September to Sunday 10 September. To find out more, click here.