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Wrexham Food Festival & The Walton Centre

A business woman from north east Wales has spoken of how a major neurology hospital helped save her life.

Jo Smith, from Wrexham was transferred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool after suffering a brain haemorrhage nine years ago.

“I was on a junction in Wrexham and it felt like someone had hit me on the back of the head with a baseball bat,” explained Jo.

“I started to think about the stroke prevention advert on the TV, the one were the woman starts to show a flame in her head, the advert still gives me the creeps.

“Following the ‘FAST’ advice from the advert which means face arms speech and time, I started to push my fingers and nails into my face, I could only feel very slight feelings. I kept raising my arms above my head, and I kept shouting to see if my speech was slurred.

“I drove home, which sounds odd but I was frightened to stop the car and get out, as I thought I would not be able to stand up and people may think I was drunk – it’s strange what goes through your mind when you’re not 100%.”

Once home Jo crawled into bed and lay there until her husband, Rob, returned home a few hours later.

Jo said: “What I remember is our dogs, they would normally be all over me when I get back, but this night they just stayed closed but did not touch me, and waited downstairs for Rob to arrive.

“Rob arrived home from work and he immediately know something was wrong and dialled 999, an on-call doctor came out to see me, and initially thought it was a migraine and gave me some strong pain killers and said if things get worse – phone 999.

“I then started to be sick, but thought this was just the pain killers not agreeing with me but I was wrong.”

Although knowing that something wasn’t right, Jo decided to return to work the following week. Unable to walk in a straight line or more than 10 steps without stopping, she went to see GP – who quickly referred her to the Wrexham Maelor Hospital with a suspected brain haemorrhage.

After undergoing a series of tests it was confirmed that Jo had a bleed on the brain and was transferred to the Walton Centre in Fazakerley, Liverpool.

“The Walton Centre were fantastic with me”, explained Jo, “As they are with all the other people they treat.”

After her treatment Jo and Rob wanted to give something back to the centre and used their involvement with the Hope Mountain Hike as a basis for fundraising. Initially set up to raise money for Liverpool Heart and Chest Festival, the Walton Centre also become involved after Jo’s brain haemorrhage in 2010 and last year alone the centre raised in excess of £20,000.

Just five years after suffering a brain haemorrhage, Jo needed treatment from the centre again when she began having spasms in her right arm.

Specialists later told Jo she had epilepsy, causing her to lose her driving licence for 12 months until the spasms were under control.

However Jo’s “can do attitude to life” has helped her turn her dreams into a reality – launching artisan company ‘Little Welsh Cheese’ back in 2014.

Jo, who is a director of the revamped Wrexham Food and Drink Festival, started trials of her cheese back in 2014 and has expanded to launch cookery workshops this year.

The Wrexham Food and Drink Festival is on the 7th-8th September this year, and is the second year of a fresh rebooted event.

This year the Walton Centre has been chosen as one of the charities that the Wrexham Food Festival will be supporting. During the two day event on the green leafy Llwyn Isaf field in the heart of Wrexham town, representatives from the centre will be selling their Christmas cards to food festival visitors.

Jo added: “Some people may ask, why has the Wrexham Food Festival chosen the Walton Centre as a charity to support?”

“The reason is simple, they support the North Wales community with people suffering with neurological issues, and as someone from Wrexham who is here with their help, and part of the committee it is a wonderful fit.”