None of them will ever forget the date of September 16, 2014 – it was the morning life changed forever and rocked a young family to their core.
It was the day when a young, healthy, outgoing and wholly unsuspecting mother of three children was dragged into a living nightmare, and suffered a devastating stroke which has left her a prisoner inside her own body.
Mhairi Maciver of Stornoway had been struggling with headaches when, at the age of just 37, she was struck down by a basilar artery stroke.
As her condition deteriorated she was put into deep coma before being transferred to Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.
Eventually Mhairi regained consciousness but like a terrifying nightmare she was left paralysed, unable to communicate, frightened and in pain.
There were dark moments when the doctors feared, and warned, she might not pull through but Mhairi refused to die. Far too much to live for, far too much to fight for.
In April last year she returned to home shores with a place in the Bethesda Hospice in the town where she has remained since. Every day a stream of friends and family members make their way to visit the hugely popular Mhairi – while her three children, partner and family members are a near constant daily presence.
Mhairi remains determined to continue her long fight to improve as much as she can but to do so she, and her family, are convinced being at home with her loved ones, and seeing her children in their home every night would be a huge help.
Her dream has now taken a giant stride towards becoming a reality after an old school friend’s dogged determination to fundraise enough money for planning permission for Mhairi’s home has snowballed bringing huge amounts spilling into the fund to help Mhairi return to the bosom of her family.
“Just being able to have her children’s faces being her last image of the night would be better than the faces of strangers,” explained Carol Maclean with a smile.
She is buzzing with a mixture of surprise and gratitude as she excitedly recounts the story of her fundraising idea which has to date raked in almost £8,000 for Mhairi.
An emotional visit with Mhairi in Bethesda left Carol feeling determined to raise some money to help the family get her home. Initially she planned to run a sponsored half marathon to aid her pal but ultimately decided to publish a JustGiving site at the same time.
On the site Carol was honest and open about her love for her friend and her hopes she could raise £1,000 to aid with the required planning permission for alterations to Mhairi’s home to try and enable her to leave the hospice.
Carol feared her opening £1,000 target was ‘a bit ambitious’ but within hours she had smashed her target prompting an emotional phone call to Mhairi’s mum Maggie.
“It said on the site to be ambitious and I thought my £1,000 target was,” explains Carol.
“I wasn’t sure what to write on the site but I just put what I felt inside and posted it.
“Within five minutes I had a message for £50. Straight away I started crying, I was delighted with people’s generosity. More donations kept piling in ranging from £10, to £100, to £250.
“I was really emotional then. Within the first 90 minutes we had reached our £1,000 total. By the morning we hit £1,800. I couldn’t sleep the first night.”
As the money continued to pour in via JustGiving, the fund for Mhairi was also boosted significantly with a cash donation.
“I also had an anonymous donator who gave me £2,000,” exclaimed Carol.
“This person didn’t want it going on the Just Giving page as it would take too long to get the money through and instead wanted to donate directly to go straight up to Mhairi’s family to put in the planning applications.
“We have done that now by using £1,200 of that for the plans with the rest remaining in the fundraising account and things are moving.
“That donation with the rest of the money on JustGiving and other donations, a tin here in the White Rooms salon, and a collection was held at the 40th reunion Mhairi should have been at on the night.
“I’m looking forward to tallying it all up and we are only half-way through the month. We hit £7,000 in the first week alone. The money is specifically for Mhairi and getting her home and whatever she needs for that.”
Mhairi has made progress since the stroke. She can communicate using her eyes and she hasn’t lost an ounce of her famous sense of humour or fun.
“She laughs and she cries,” said her mum Maggie, “those are her only two emotions.
“Mhairi is great and lucky that was her nature anyway and she is exactly the same Mhairi as she was before. It’s all physical but she has accepted it and she says she is just glad to be alive.”
Now Mhairi has progressed to eating yoghurt and other soft items. Small steps but huge strides in confidence.
In the grip of Locked In Syndrome, Mhairi’s body isn’t willing but her heart hasn’t skipped a beat. Her heart remains as big as a lion, her spirit is an inspiration to all.
And now thanks to the efforts of an old friend from school, the hope is Mhairi can continue her recuperation on more comfortable ground, seeing the loving, smiling faces of those she loves most every morning and every night.
For Connor, 18, Chloe, 16, and Kyle, 13, – this would mean the world. And for Mhairi it could mean even more.
“It’d be better to be home than sitting in a room in a hospice, even one as good as this,” insists Maggie.
“The plan is to adapt the house for Mhairi. I have the plans and we paid £1,200 from Carol’s fundraising for that.
“It has been very difficult. Her children are here every single day. They are absolutely dedicated. Wonderful, wonderful children. The staff feed her in the morning and we feed her the other times. All the staff in Bethesda are marvellous. They go beyond the call of duty and they deserve a tremendous mention.
“And Carol too. She has done so much and we are very grateful. That night she phoned me every half hour and the excitement was massive. The money coming in shows what people thought of Mhairi.”
Mhairi was a happy young mum of three and aged just 37 with no more issues than suffering headaches when her body was struck by the stroke.
“She was healthy, she walked every day and led a very healthy lifestyle,” reflects Maggie.
“It is so sad. Her eyes have been affected and her sight is limited. She is unable to speak and she has total paralysis. Her mind though hasn’t been affected at all. She can turn her head which compensates a little for her sight as she can’t look from side to side but she can turn her head.”
Mhairi was put into a deep coma to protect her brain from any further damage and for a spell there were fears she might never wake up.
“They didn’t have much hope for her,” says Maggie.
“Then they noticed after two weeks they thought she looked aware and they asked her to blink once if she could understand the doctors. So they knew she was aware.”
Carol and Mhairi were old school friends. Growing up together and pals through the years, Carol admits it was difficult to see her dear friend for the first time but from the moment she did she could see the spark in Mhairi’s eyes and they have once again become inseparable.
“When this happened to Mhairi I just thought how awful it was and I wanted to try and do something,” says Carol.
“I always go up with Maggie. It is amazing to see them together and she goes through the alphabet with her. Mhairi’s whole family is there day-in-day-out and they are all so wonderful with her.
“Mhairi’s memory is 100 per cent. I’ve been teasing her she will have to help me training.
“My only wish was for her to be home with her kids, watching them mucking about at home, watching TV and seeing their faces every night. You can see the spark in Mhairi since doing this. She is so pleased.
“I can’t give enough thank yous to everyone who has donated so far. I am so, so grateful to everyone.”
Carol will be pulling on her Nike’s and her headband to run in the Stornoway Half Marathon on Saturday, May 28, 2016, and she jokes she might not be alone on race day.
“To run this half marathon will be tough. I need Mhairi to be waiting at the end for me with a bottle of wine,” she laughed.
“It is such a touching story it is heartbreaking. She is only 39 and it could be me or any of us. I would hope someone would do this for my family if I was in this situation.”
The past 18 months have been painful and testing for the whole family but now as the donations soar above £8,000 there could finally be the chance to bring Mhairi home where she belongs. A prospect which brings a wide smile to Maggie’s face.
“Who knows what the future holds but if Mhairi is content with the way she is just now then that’s good enough for us,” she adds, “she is still Mhairi, she is just physically impaired.”
To donate to Mhairi’s Just Giving page visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/carol-maclean
Pictured are Mhairi with her children, Chloe, 16, Kyle, 13, Connor, 18, and pal Carol on the right who launched the fundraising appeal to try and bring her home.