Nia Phillips, 22, had a stroke misdiagnosed as a hangover

A 22-year-old student in Wales suffered a life-threatening stroke likely caused by her birth control pill, although doctors initially told her she only had a hangover, according to a report.

Nia Phillips, a psychology student from Ammanford, sought medical advice when she felt a headache one day in fall 2019, Wales Online reported.

They told him the pain was likely the result of a hangover, but doctors determined days later that he actually suffered a stroke.

“I felt my head hurt on Friday, but it wasn’t bad. Then I woke up on Saturday and it was definitely a migraine, ”Phillips told the news outlet.

“I was vomiting, my vision was blurred, I was very sensitive to light to the point where I had to close the curtains and put on a mask,” he added.

The then 20-year-old had planned to go to a dance at Royal Holloway University in Surrey, but could barely lift her head from the pillow.

Nia Phillips' stroke was likely caused by her birth control pill.
Nia Phillips’ stroke was likely caused by a birth control pill.

“The migraine persisted until Sunday and then on Sunday night I thought enough was enough and called the GP after hours [general practitioner]. They told me it’s probably a hangover and that I should watch my symptoms, ”Phillips said.

“They prescribed co-codamol (a mixture of painkillers paracetamol and codeine) to relieve the pain,” he said.

Phillips followed the doctor’s advice and rested for the next few days, but the pain persisted, so her mother came to help her return home to Carmarthenshire, according to the report.

“We were back on the train and I was so sensitive to light that I had to walk through Reading station in a sleeping mask and my hood up,” he said.

“When we got home, I saw a nurse who thought it was an ear infection as she could see swelling behind my ear, but because my eyes were still so sore, my mother suggested that we see an optician. The optician was a friend of the family and we were very lucky that she was able to position us at the last minute, ”continued Phillips.

The optician noticed inflammation in Phillips’ brain and immediately sent her to the hospital.

Nia Phillips from Wales suffered a stroke, however doctors initially dismissed her symptoms as just a hangover.
Nia Phillips from Wales suffered a stroke, however doctors initially dismissed her symptoms as a hangover.

“I will always be very grateful to her because if she hadn’t been pointed out, who knows what would have happened?” she said.

“At the hospital I saw a consulting ophthalmologist. At first he thought it could have been IIH (idiopathic intracranial hypertension), which is a pressure in the brain that is not very uncommon in my age group, so later they sent me to have scans, “said the student.

Nia Phillips says that she "really lucky to have friends who are very supportive of me."
Nia Phillips says she is “very lucky to have friends who really support her.”

That night, Phillips was admitted to the hospital, where she underwent an MRI and ultrasound of the eyeball.

“They came back and said, ‘After seeing his MRI, we can see a blood clot in the brain.’ They instantly injected me with heparin to thin my blood as quickly as possible, ”he said.

“I was completely numb and it felt a bit like an out-of-body experience,” added Phillips, who stayed at Glangwili Hospital for two weeks.

After she was discharged, tests were done to try to determine the cause of her blood clot.

“They told me that according to the tests I had no genetic predisposition to blood clots. There was also no known family history of the disease and I was a healthy young woman in my 20s, ”she told Wales Online.

“They told me that the doctors could never explain 100 percent with certainty why I had the blood clot, but the most likely cause was my birth control pill,” he said.

“I took the Rigevidon (combined) pill in 2017 at the age of 18 and never had any prior problems with it. I did not suffer from migraines or severe headaches, “he added.

Phillips said she didn’t realize the pill carries small risks and wants all teenage girls and young women to be fully informed before choosing their birth control method.

Nia Phillips was initially prescribed pain relievers.
Nia Phillips was initially prescribed pain relievers.

Rigevidon, one of the most popular types of birth control, is safe for most women, according to the NHS website, which says there is a “very low risk of serious side effects” such as blood clots.

It says women should be fine to take it unless they have or have a close family history of certain medical conditions.

Due to the amount of time he spent outside of school, Phillips deferred his degree for a year and re-enrolled in his junior year at Cardiff University to be closer to home.

“I am very fortunate to have very supportive friends that I can relax when I watch and really enjoy, but when I come home from socializing I can feel that it has really taken things away from me, whereas I have never had it before. I am really sociable, ”he said.


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