Gary Smith, from Hertfordshire, started to feel ‘drunk’ and ‘dizzy’ shortly after walking into a Lush store – he assumed it was the smell that caused his headache until he couldn’t move his arm
A dad who believed an “overpowering” smell in Lush triggered his headache was actually enduring a major stroke.
Gary Smith, 52, was searching for a present for his wife when he became distracted by the “intense” scent inside the body care store in Stone, Kent. He initially blamed the smell for his onset symptoms but then he began to lose vision in his right eye.
The dad decided to buy some pain relief with his daughter, Rebekah, from Boots but when he tried to pick up the box of pills he felt like his “arm was frozen”. He described the moment his condition started to deteriorate and compared his movements to being “drunk”.
Luckily, a staff member at Boots recognised the symptoms and alerted the emergency services. Rebekah, 30, then rushed her dad to hospital, where exams revealed he had suffered from a stroke. Gary, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, said: “When I was in Lush I had a headache and I found it overpowering. I was getting intense senses and you don’t want that because it’s going to make it worse.
“When we left to go to Boots I noticed I’d started to lose vision in my left eye. It was like I had a smudge on my windscreen and couldn’t see through it. In hindsight, this was the point I should have said I have a massive problem here, but I didn’t and we carried on to Boots and things started to go massively downhill.” He continued: “When I went to pick up the box my arm went towards it but I couldn’t pick it up. It was like my arm was frozen. I wasn’t in pain but it wouldn’t work. I was confused. I put the bath bomb down and picked the box up with my other hand to tuck it under my arm but once again it wouldn’t work.
“At this point, I lost spatial awareness and Rebekah asked me ‘what’s up?’ By that time I was worried. It was as if I was drunk. Everything is not doing what you want it to do. You can see stuff but everything’s a bit fuzzy.”
The dad recalled the conversation he had with a specialist after the incident and urged people to “listen” to their bodies. “When I saw a specialist weeks later he told me I’d had a big stroke and that people who have this usually have permanent paralysis and that was a huge shock,” he said. “When you’re having a stroke you can’t stop it and you’ve got to see what happens but I knew I wasn’t right and kept pushing on like an idiot. If you get a couple of symptoms then listen to your body and tell someone.”
Gary claims the expert told him that the episode had killed an eighth of his brain and said he was shocked that he was able to walk. Thirty minutes after his initial brain scan, the dad says the headache had changed into a pain in his left eye. He also described feeling pain in the back of his neck.
The father explains that his brain is “rewiring itself to compensate for the area that has died”. Doctors believe the cause of the stroke could have been due to a blood clot which was caused by a genetic heart defect. He currently remains off work because of fatigue. He has since posted his health scare on TikTok, with the caption including “eye started to ache, assumed it was the bath bombs”. The video has been watched over 200,000 times and has received more than 170 comments. Social media users joked about Lush, with one person stating: “Someone should tell them those bath bombs are too strong.”
Gary joked and said: “Killed off one-eighth of my brain Soph. The missus can have a plain bath from now on!” Another person wrote: “You’ve been lucky. Speedy recovery thanks for sharing.” The dad responded and said: “Incredibly lucky. I count every day. Thank you.” Gill Eldridge, who is the assistant store manager at the Boots store, praised the dad for raising awareness and said: “When the customer described his symptoms, I immediately thought it sounded like a stroke and so, called 999 straight away. It is great that he is now raising awareness of his experience to help others understand the signs and symptoms.”