Help Melle Stewart after life-threatening stroke
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Melle Stewart was a healthy, talented 40-year old Australian actor living and working in London with her husband, actor Ben Lewis. On May 24th 2021 Melle received her first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine. She has been and continues to be an advocate for vaccination. It was a happy day for Melle. Two weeks later on June 8th, Melle’s life changed.
Melle at Sandown Park Vaccination Centre, May 24th 2021
14 days after receiving her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Melle woke up at midnight to a strange feeling on the right-hand side of her body. She tried to get out of bed but quickly collapsed. Melle was rushed to hospital where her condition quickly deteriorated, losing all movement on the right-hand side of her body as well as her ability to speak. She began having seizures and was taken by ambulance to St George’s Hospital, London, where neurosurgeons battled to save her life, removing a large part of her skull to reduce the pressure in her brain.
After being admitted to the neurological ICU, Melle was formally diagnosed with Vaccine-Induced Thrombocytopenic Thrombosis (VITT). This is the extremely rare condition you may have heard or read about in the news, a condition that is now acknowledged by the manufacturer and the regulators as a very rare side effect of this particular vaccine. Unfortunately, Melle had had a severe stroke, caused by two large clots in the main veins of her brain, with the pressure and low platelets causing a secondary bleed in the left frontal lobe. Melle spent 3 weeks in an induced coma during which time she was ventilated and received a number of blood transfusion procedures to help remove the antibodies created by the vaccine that were causing the clots. She was also put on heavy doses of anti-clotting and anti-seizure medication, which continue to this day.
Melle in St. Georges Hospital June/July 2021
After 4 and a half weeks in the ICU, Melle’s fighting spirit that we all know and love saw her finally released from the ICU and transferred to an Acute Stroke Unit to commence her rehabilitation. On September 8th, exactly three months after being admitted to hospital, Melle was then transferred to a specialised rehabilitation hospital in London where she will undergo more intensive treatment.
Melle during a physio session October 2021
The devastation caused by VITT has been profound; prior to vaccination, Melle was a fit, healthy 40-year-old, a successful professional actress, dancer and singer who had never been in hospital before. Due to the seriousness of Melle’s condition, she will remain in hospital into 2022. She continues to work hard every day relearning how to walk, talk and move her right arm and hand. Melle, a vibrant storyteller with an undying passion for language and expression, is now re-learning how to make sounds, form words and speak again. Her road to recovery will be a long one including further surgery to fit a titanium plate to replace the portion of her skull previously removed during surgery.
Melle performing in "Kiss Me Kate" Belfast, Feb. 2020 / Melle learning to walk again, Kingston Hospital Aug. 2021
The pandemic has meant that Melle and Ben’s families back in Australia have not been able to physically be with them through this ordeal. Continents, border closures and lengthy exemption applications separate them. Ben has been Melle’s sole physical support during this time. It has been incredibly difficult dealing with such a catastrophic life-changing event without being near to family and close friends.
An adored wife, daughter, sister, actor, teacher and friend, those who know Melle and Ben know that they are fiercely independent and private - never ones to ask for help, even when they need it most. This is why we are organising this fundraiser on their behalf.
Melle in a physio session, Oct. 2021
The reality and long-term financial impact on this beautiful couple will be significant. Neither Melle nor Ben will be returning to work anytime soon. The funds raised here will help offset a myriad of medical and life expenses including:
- Loss of income: Since 8th June 2021, Melle has been unable to work. Ben has also been unable to work throughout this acute phase of Melle’s treatment in order to care for her. They both work in the performing arts, which is an industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic. They have always relied on two sources of income but now find themselves in a financially vulnerable position that wasn’t fathomable a few months ago.
- Ongoing Rehabilitation Therapy costs including:
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and Language therapy
- Psychological therapy
- Relocation and modifications to their home to accommodate Melle’s needs once she is released from hospital
- And hopefully (and this is a big hope) travelling back to Australia when Melle is strong enough and the pandemic allows for a safe passage home.
The best way we can all help is to relieve this financial burden so that they can focus on what’s important – Melle’s health, road to recovery and return to the healthy, happy and strong woman she has always been.
Melle and Ben
We know that everyone is suffering due to this pandemic but we are asking you to open your kind hearts and be as generous as you can to help us raise funds for our dearest, brave Melle. If you can help out in any way, your contributions will make such a difference. Please share this with anyone and everyone who might wish to contribute to this most worthy of causes.
The Stewart Family & Lewis Family x
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