Australian actress suffers stroke after getting Covid vaccine

·4-min read

An Australian actress living overseas has received an influx of support after suffering from a rare side effect of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Melle Stewart, a healthy 40-year-old Australian actress living in London, was "happy" to receive her first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

According to GoFundMe, "she has been and continues to be an advocate for vaccination", however her life was turned upside down on June 8, two weeks after her first dose.

Waking up at midnight two weeks after her first vaccination, Ms Stewart had a "strange feeling" on the right side of her body. When she tried to get out of bed, she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

Melle Stewart had a stroke after she had the Covid-19 vaccine. Source: GoFundMe
Melle Stewart had a stroke after she had the Covid-19 vaccine. Source: GoFundMe

Her state deteriorated quickly; she lost all movement on the right side of her body and the ability to speak, and she began having seizures.

Ms Stewart was diagnosed with Vaccine-Induced Thrombocytopenia Thrombosis (VITT), a rare condition which is linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In the Therapeutic Goods Administration's most recent Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring and reporting, it stated there have been approximately 32.7 million doses administered in Australia.

There have also been nine reported deaths linked to immunisation, of the 612 deaths reviewed.

"The deaths linked to immunisation occurred after the first dose of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) – 8 were TTS cases and one was a case of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP)," the TGA said.

The TGA notes the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccine"far outweigh" the potential risks of vaccination.

Ms Stewart suffered a severe stroke, which caused two large clots in the main veins in her brain, which caused a secondary bleed in her frontal lobe.

The actress was in an induced coma for three weeks, she was ventilated and received blood transfusions and put on anti-clotting and anti-seizure medication.

While she was at hospital in London, neurosurgeons had to remove a large part of Ms Stewart's skull to relieve the pressure on her brain.

Melle Stewart and her husband Ben Lewis are living in London. Source: GoFundMe
Melle Stewart and her husband Ben Lewis are living in London. Source: GoFundMe

'Profound' devastation following stroke

Ms Stewart spent four and a half weeks recovering in the ICU and was then transferred to an Acute Stroke Unit to commence her rehabilitation, before being taken to a rehabilitation hospital in London for more "intensive treatment".

According to the GoFundMe, she was fit and healthy before she had the stroke.

"The devastation caused by VITT has been profound,' it said. 

"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."

However, at this stage, Ms Stewart will be in hospital until 2022. She is learning how to walk, talk and move her right arm and hand.

Melle Stewart has had a long recovery following the stroke, having been in an induced coma and going through rehabilitation. Source: GoFundMe
Melle Stewart has had a long recovery following the stroke, having been in an induced coma and going through rehabilitation. Source: GoFundMe

"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," the GoFundMe went on. 

"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."

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, Ms Stewart and her husband Ben Lewis have not been able to be with their families back in Australia.

For the past few months, Mr Lewis has been his wife's "sole support" and it has been difficult dealing with the life-changing events without friends or family.

Ms Stewart has been unable to work since the stroke, while Mr Lewis has been able to work for part of her recovery, in order to care for her.

The GoFundMe was set up to help pay for Melle Stewart's recovery and relieve her and her husband from the financial burden. Source: GoFundMe
The GoFundMe was set up to help pay for Melle Stewart's recovery and relieve her and her husband from the financial burden. Source: GoFundMe

Both of them work in the performing arts and have been impacted by the pandemic, now they are in a "financially vulnerable position".

In addition to needing to pay for the rehabilitation therapy, the two will need to relocate and make modifications to their home to accomodate for Ms Stewart's needs.

The two also hope to travel back to Australia when Ms Stewart is strong enough and it is safe to do so.

The GoFundMe set up by the couples' families has raised over $168,000 so far.

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