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A letter from Alessandra Marcelo

As a 29-year-old physiotherapist, I never thought I would be the one lying in an ICU hospital bed, but shortly after a game of Oztag, I suffered a catastrophic stroke.  

Hospitals and healthcare staff step in to save our lives often with no warning. If you’re like me and are grateful for the care you received in one of our hospitals within the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD), please make a tax-deductible donation to the NORTH Foundation today. 

Alessandra Marcelo

It was a typical Tuesday evening, I was playing Oztag with friends when I started feeling a pain in my neck. I thought it was just a crick and ignored it, but a few hours later the room started spinning and I was vomiting.  

As a trained physiotherapist, I started thinking this could actually be a vertebral artery dissection, which is classified as a medical emergency – so I told my partner to call an ambulance.  

A vertebral artery dissection is an emergency due to the risk of a blood clot dislodging and going up to the brain, like it did for me. As a result of the dissection, I had a basilar ischemic stroke which blocked the artery that provides oxygen-rich blood to my brain. 

When I arrived at my local hospital, they quickly assessed me and performed a CT scan. Thankfully, the doctors at my local hospital were already in contact with specialists at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH), discussing my treatment and planning my transfer. During the transfer, I lost consciousness and upon arriving to RNSH, Dr Alice Ma, my Interventional Neurologist, performed a stroke thrombectomy procedure and was able to reperfuse my brainstem and visual cortex. 

The surgery itself was incredible – I still can’t believe that Dr Ma went through my groin all the way up to my brain to remove the clot. 

If you were also amazed by the care, professionalism and expertise from the staff at your local hospital, please support the NORTH Foundation charity appeal today.

Alessandra Marcelo in hospital

Despite this amazing surgery, there was still a chance that I might have sustained a severe, maybe permanent brain stem injury. The surgeons told my partner, Julian, that they didn’t know if I was going to wake up.  

To everyone’s great relief, I woke up neurologically intact.

I attribute my recovery to the teamwork and close collaboration of multiple specialty teams at RNSH, particularly the RNSH ICU team, who were crucial in my post-operative care.  

I spent nearly two weeks in the ICU, and I received the best care from all the doctors and nurses who were all so kind and compassionate. Julian’s support also helped me through and the way the hospital staff kept him informed was also so impressive. 

I never thought I would be on the other side of the bed, but the experience has given me a newfound appreciation for all healthcare professionals and the wonderful work that they do every day. 

As a patient, I have to say that the coordination of care between my different medical teams and allied health teams was nothing short of incredible. Every single team worked together seamlessly to ensure that I received the best care possible. 

One of the most remarkable things that I experienced during my hospital stay was how attentive my care staff was to my needs. I had lost my appetite while in hospital and was regularly returning full trays of food to the hospital kitchen. Despite me not mentioning my lack of appetite, the staff noticed this and put in a referral for a dietician to ensure that I was getting enough nutrition for my recovery. This level of attention to detail and proactive care was truly outstanding.

If you are grateful for the care and attention you or a loved one experienced in hospital too, please donate today.  

Once I was discharged from hospital, the team made sure that all of my follow-ups with various teams were seamless. I didn’t have to stress about appointments needing to be booked – instead, all the teams followed up with me to make sure that I was getting the care that I needed. I had appointments with the genetics specialists, outpatient occupational therapy, radiology for my MRIs and follow-up appointments with Dr. Ma. 

Alessandra proposing to Julian

The team even went above and beyond to hand over important information to my GP who is based in another district. This allowed my GP to effectively monitor my medications and recovery, which was a huge relief for me. 

Throughout my entire hospital stay and after, I felt like I was in the best hands possible. The level of care and attention that I received was truly exceptional and I am grateful to every single person who was involved in my care.

When I was in hospital, I decided that I wanted to propose to Julian. I just thought ‘if we can get through my stroke, then we can get through anything’. After I was discharged, I got down on one knee at sunset while overlooking Sydney Harbour from Observatory Hill and Julian said YES! 

I’m so grateful that the Northern Sydney Local Health District provides holistic and comprehensive care to patients like me who don’t even live locally. This high-quality care is available to patients, no matter where they come from.  

Included in this tax appeal are a few health promotion materials which we hope will help all of you in some way. The Northern Sydney Local Health District really provided me with comprehensive care and didn’t simply treat just my stroke, but took care of my whole self. These health promotion cards have been designed by medical professionals from our hospitals and research institutes and we hope you find them useful.

Thanks to the life-saving treatment I received, I’ve been able to get back to playing sport. and Julian and I are now planning two weddings – one in Australia and one for my family and friends in Singapore. 

Thank you for reading my story. If you would like to support our tax appeal, please click here.






Alessandra Marcelo

PS Your gift to our tax appeal will make a lasting impact to the care our hospitals can provide patients – no matter where they come from.

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