F1 presenter Jennie Gow shares recovery story after suffering a stroke

Thomas Maher
BBC's Jennie Gow

BBC's Jennie Gow

Jennie Gow has revealed the heartbreaking details of the stroke she suffered in late 2022, from which she continues to recover.

Respected BBC broadcaster Jennie Gow has been a conspicuous absentee from the Formula 1 paddock in 2023, with the journalist sidelined this year as a result of a stroke she suffered in December 2022.

Gow continues to work hard on her recovery, having relearned how to walk and talk in the months since suffering the stroke, and re-appeared for a short hello on the BBC F1 podcast at the start of the season.

Closing in on the six-month mark since the medical emergency, and to mark Stroke Awareness Month, Gow appeared on the BBC’s One show for a segment in which she and her husband Jamie Coley recounted the circumstances of the day on which she suffered her medical emergency.

Jennie Gow recounts details of her medical emergency

“This was my life,” Gow said over images showing her hard at work in the F1 paddock, before a stark switch to images of her lying in a hospital bed.

“But then, my life changed dramatically. At 45, I suffered a serious stroke. I’ve spent the last few months learning to walk and, more significantly, to talk again.

“Just after Christmas, I got sick. It wasn’t COVID, but I had a terrible cough. And then my husband Jamie found me collapsed in the bathroom.”

“I was trying to call your name and get you to speak to me,” Coley said. “And I was just getting nothing back from you. It was the worst moment of my life.”

He also revealed how the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Isabel, had leaped into action to help her mother.

“She was very upset,” he said.

“But then she was an absolute superstar, she got some cushions for you to put under your head, and then passed me my phone to phone an ambulance.”

Having been brought to the hospital, the culprit for the stroke was uncovered – Gow’s battle with a virus had set off the chain reaction that resulted in a stroke.

“The majority of strokes are caused by a blockage in a blood vessel that supplies the brain,” said consultant Dr. Thomas Payne.

“[Jennie’s] stroke was caused by a blood clot which came from the carotid artery in the neck, a tear in the blood vessel due to coughing and viral infection that [Jennie] had at the time. And that clot flew up the vessel causing the stroke on the left side of the brain.”

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Jennie Gow fights to recover her speech

Having spent her life in the business of communication, it’s perhaps not surprising that Gow fought extremely hard to get her voice back as quickly as she could.

“It’s not unknown for a viral cough to cause a stroke. But it is extremely rare,” she explained.

“It was badly affecting my speech and the right side of my body. So I was transferred to a specialist unit at St. George’s in London to have my clot removed before any further damage.

“You [Coley] said that in my ear ‘Fight for me, for Isabel’. And I did.

“Although the procedure was successful, the clot had already damaged the part of my brain associated with speech.

“I wanted to ask [Jamie] a simple thing ‘Are you OK’? I was trying to write on the board, but none of the words made sense.

“It was actually one of the stroke nurses who finally got me to speak by pushing me to get angry. She barracked me to say ‘Come on, find your voice’. And, all of a sudden, it was like ‘Ah’ and it was scratchy and horrible. But it was something. And I got my voice back.

“It’s taken months of therapy. I still feel numb down my right side. My sense of taste is gone. I get very tired, but my voice is getting better.

“I’m determined to come back as strong as ever. And I want to share my experiences to try and shine a light on stroke survivors. And if we can help just one person, that will be enough.”

With Gow and her family finding a semblance of normality in their day-to-day lives, Coley expressed his admiration for what she has achieved in the months since suffering her stroke.

“Your determination and your drive for you, for Isabel, for me, your career. I’m hugely proud of what you’ve achieved.”

Gow celebrated her birthday earlier this week and expressed a desire for her followers to consider donating to the Stroke Association.

“For my birthday, I’m trying to raise awareness and some much-needed funds for the Stroke Association – any donations would be greatly appreciated,” she wrote on her Instagram.

You can find out more about The Stroke Association, as well as links to donate, via their website by clicking here.

All at PlanetF1.com would like to express our best wishes to Jennie Gow and her family as she continues her recovery.