Norton student mistook stroke for the 'world's worst hangover'

Jameel Razak thought he had a hangover -but he had had a stroke while he was asleep. Credit: North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

A student who woke up with the "world's worst hangover" after a night at the pub discovered he had actually had a stroke while he was asleep.

Jameel Razak, now 25, was on his university Easter break when he suffered the stroke in March 2022.

After a night in the pub in Norton, Teesside, and a few pints with friends, the Leeds University student woke up with a splitting headache and sickness - sure signs of a hangover.

When he got up, the journalism student noticed something was wrong when he tried to stand up and collapsed to the floor.

He said: “I was pretty confident that I’d wake up tomorrow after a sleep and I’d be good as new – maybe it was just a little blip. So I persuaded my parents somehow to let me be for the night and not to worry.”

The following day, Mr Razak woke up and realised his symptoms had worsened – he had a ringing in his ear, struggled with his hand-eye coordination and the right side of his body was numb.

His parents rang for an ambulance and he was admitted to the stroke ward at the University Hospital of North Tees.

Then aged 23, he received treatment on the ward for 17 days and continued his physical and cognitive therapy as a discharged patient at home.

Talking about his hospital stay, Mr Razak said: “I remember when I first came to hospital and everyone on the ward was in their 60s and 70s. I remember feeling so lonely so every time a nurse came round I was chewing their ear off.

“In the end I was thinking ‘You know what, this hospital stay’s not that bad’. I was enjoying the conversations with nurses – it keeps you going.

“I will say to stroke survivors who are on ward 41 that you’re in good hands.”

What are the symptoms of stroke?

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST:

  • Face

The face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

  • Arms

The person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

  • Speech

Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you are saying to them.

  • Time

 It is time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

Following a transoesophageal echocardiogram (an ultrasound probe which goes down the throat to check the heart), he was found to have a small hole in his heart.

It allows blood, and therefore any clots, to flow between his heart valves and into the body, including his brain.

He recently underwent keyhole surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to repair his heart, reducing his chances of a repeat stroke.

He is still in stroke recovery and suffering from some long-term symptoms, including fatigue and some cognitive impairments such as linking words to their meanings.

Mr Razak said he has a new lease on life and has picked up where he left off at university, now re-focusing his final project to produce a 15 minute documentary about stroke and stroke survivors.

He said: “Since I’ve had a stroke, the one thing I’ve noticed is that people aren’t as aware as they should be that young people can have a stroke.

"It’s given me a purpose and I want to create something that raises awareness and educates people, but also to show people in my situation that there’s life after stroke.

“I missed out on a lot last year. I was 23, becoming a lot more independent and doing things for myself – and I had it snatched away in an instant.

“Having a stroke has shown me what I’m made of. I didn’t think I could ever go through something like that and come out the other side a better person, a better version of myself.

“My plan now is to finish university and then just... live life.”

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