From the outside, Emma Dawson is like a normal 15-year-old girl: she loves drawing, One Direction and seeing how high she can go on the trampoline.
But just four months ago, her life hung in the balance after she had a stroke – something usually associated with people more than twice her age.
The diagnosis would be difficult for any previously healthy teenager – but it was all the more heartbreaking for Emma, who is a carer for her mother and both her siblings, who all have cerebral palsy.
Jane Dawson, 42, Chelsey, 13, and George, 12, all have the disorder as well as a string of other medical problems and rely on Emma and her father Garry to care for them.
Emma, who lives in Crocus Field, Barnet, woke up at 3am complaining of a tummy ache and dizziness, just one week after having the meningitis booster jab in February.
She spent the following two days in bed before her father took her to the doctor who diagnosed her with an ear infection.
When her symptoms did not subside, she was admitted to hospital where she was told she had suffered a stroke, caused by lesions on the brain.
Her parents and grandmother, Diane Taylor, were beside themselves with worry – but gentle, unassuming Emma, took it all in her stride.
She said: “I was really dazed and felt so unwell, but for me there was never a question about how I was. My family are far more important to me and I couldn’t stop worrying about them.”
The teenager spent five days in hospital and had a further six weeks off lessons at East Barnet School, where she is in Year 10.
After losing the use of her lower legs and co-ordination, she is slowly getting back to full health and is having physiotherapy to strengthen her muscles. The lesions on her brain also appear to be getting smaller.
Emma added: “You really realise who your true friends are. They have all been amazing – but some other kids have said nasty things to me and that I don’t look ill. It’s frustrating and it gets me down.
“It’s been exhausting but the way I see it is that I had no choice to get better. I had to for my family."
Now on the road to recovery, Emma is focusing on her future and hopes to become a professional photographer.
As her parents and grandmother gush about how proud they are of her, Emma simply laughs and insists “it’s no trouble at all.”
Her mother also had a stroke at the age of 27, and her family believe a predisposition to strokes coupled with a bad reaction to the meningitis jab could have triggered the reaction.
Mrs Dawson said: “For a little girl to have gone through all that, she’s the bravest person I know. I couldn’t do it all at 42. All she’s more bothered about is how we’re coping at home.
“From the moment she was old enough, she’s been helping out with our needs – cooking, cleaning and giving the kids baths. She doesn’t care about herself, she’s incredible.”
Brother and sister, George and Chelsey, were also keen to have their say. “She’s the best big sister ever,” they said.