A PROFESSIONAL dancer from Newtownards, whose career was saved when someone spotted she was having a stroke and called 999, has urged everyone to learn the symptoms.

Victoria Martin made a remarkable recovery from the potentially life-threatening stroke and is back on stage performing before audiences across the UK and Ireland.

The 43-year-old had a stroke in July 2020 during the pandemic. As a dancer, she has performed alongside Strictly Come Dancing stars Kevin Clifton and Vincent Simone. She’s young, fit and healthy so her stroke was a huge shock.

“I was back home working in my sister Nadine’s beauty salon,” explained Victoria.

“I was in the reception area when my right arm started to tingle and my hand curled up. I had a hair bobble on my wrist and thought it was just too tight so I swapped it over but the feeling didn’t ease.

“I felt a sharp pain in my head and went on to feel very dizzy. I felt something wasn’t right and went to look in the mirror where I could see my face had fallen on the right hand side.

“I started to lose strength in my whole right side including my legs. I managed to make it to the back of the salon to my sister’s treatment room and immediately she knew something was up.

“I lost my speech when I tried to tell my sister something wasn’t right but thankfully a lovely regular customer called Sheila recognised through FAST the symptoms of a stroke and called an ambulance straight away.”

The Stroke Association says Victoria’s experience shows how vital it is that people are aware of the FAST signs of stroke, know that it’s a medical emergency and call 999 straight away.

The FAST acronym aims to remind people that the key signs of stroke are: Face – can the person smile? Arms – can they raise both arms? Speech – is their speech slurred? Time to call 999 if you spot any of these signs. 

Every year, almost 5,000 people in Northern Ireland have a stroke and it is one of the leading causes of death and disability.

Victoria and Nadine did not know what a stroke was and had no idea about the FAST test. Thankfully, regular customer Sheila recognised all three of the most common symptoms of a stroke as a family member had TIAs previously.

“Without Sheila, who knows what would have happened as I didn’t have a clue what was going on,” said Victoria.

The ambulance came quickly and I was taken straight to the Royal Victoria Hospital.”

Victoria had an operation in October 2020 to fix the hole in her heart that caused the stroke. She did have possible TIA’s after her stroke and before the operation but because of the FAST test she always went to the hospital straight away to get checked out.

“Now it feels so surreal,” she said.

“Afterwards I had panic attacks and another mini stroke leading up to my heart operation but thankfully I was back on stage for Kevin Clifton’s BTF UK tour where I was his leading lady in January 2022. Without acting FAST, reaching my goal of dancing again professionally may have not been achievable.

“I am now performing alongside Vincent Simone in his UK and Ireland tour Tango Passions. I just want everyone to take the time to learn the FAST test as it is so important and could save a life, just like it did mine.”

For more information about stroke and the support services for survivors and carers in Northern Ireland visit or call the Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100.