They say when life gives you lemons make lemonade, but what do you do when life gives you a rare brain condition? Why, rebuild your life, start your own business and explore your creative side of course. Here is the inspiring story of a Dublin mum whose health diagnosis led to an uphill battle and a new start when she got there.
Máirín Ní Bheacháin has a few strings to her bow. She is founder of MoStyle a personal styling company, she is an inspirational speaker through her brand MoTalks and she has launched a new fashion brand Mise Collars.
“I’m in my third year with MoStyle, I style men and women,” says Ní Bheacháin. “And I started MoTalks, which is kind of linked to my health story. It was launched with a talk, a fireside chat in Google, where we shared my health story, about my business and adapting and living life to the full.”
In 2016 Ní Bheacháin was diagnosed with moyamoya which is a rare condition where the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain narrow limiting the flow to the brain which can cause a stroke. Previous to the diagnosis Ní Bheacháin had been unwell for five years and visited a number for doctors and specialists. She was working as a teacher at the time.
“I went to a neurologist and was diagnosed with a type of migraine, it’s called hemiplegic migraines,” she explains. “I took the medication, and it didn’t work. My skin kind of went a funny colour, I was losing some weight, and I was just struggling to do everyday things.”
Ní Bheacháin was dealing with this undiagnosed condition, a full-time job and two young kids at the time.
“I started to lose the power all down my right side so I’d be literally walking and then go limp, or I’d be in the classroom and my hand would just start to tremble and I just needed to sit down until it stopped trembling, my face would go numb,” she says.
“I had quite severe worrying things, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, and in the stroke clinic nothing showed up.”
Because of the oxygen flow to the brain was being restricted Ní Bheacháin was actually having lots of little mini strokes which were causing all these changes in her function.
“There was a point where I thought I was actually losing the plot and I took a year out and went to a therapist who was amazing,” she says. “When I did go into Beaumont hospital, I went to the A&E and they did a brain scan. They said you have a thing called moyamoya and I was really relieved that it actually had a name and I knew what it was,” she explains. “Because you feel like, I’m not inventing this, I’m not imagining this.”
“But the thing is that moyamoya it’s degenerative, so it needs to be treated and the only treatment is brain surgery,” she adds.
During the nine-hour surgery Ní Bheacháin had a stroke, and when she woke up after surgery she was initially unable to speak. She later discovered that she couldn’t read or write and would have to learn how to do those things all over again.
“I spent a month in Beaumont getting myself back together – when you have brain surgery, it takes a while for everything to settle again. My speech did come back gradually,” she says.
“I have aphasia, people with strokes get that, it’s to do with word recall and speech. Somebody with severe aphasia would struggle with speaking, whereas I’m lucky enough in that respect, mine’s quite mild.”
“For me the challenge was coming home and how to manage everything, and then starting to learn to read and write again which actually took two and a half years,” she adds.
Ní Bheacháin did not return to the classroom instead she flew solo and started her personal styling company MoStyle and there the fashion and style seeds were sown which has brought her to her latest venture Mise Collars.
“Mise collars born last November as a reaction to Covid and lockdowns,” she explains. “I give a lot of talks on styling and styling for Zoom.”
“I started to think about ways to bring a bit of glamour, style, personality and fun to the screen because we were all getting dressed from my waist up and I love accessories. So, I started Mise Collars, and then it really, really took off, it’s been getting a lot of publicity in magazines.”
“It started on Instagram, Facebook, and then I developed a website. I did a partnership with Bow and Pearl boutique in Rathmines,” she says.
Mise Collars are beautiful handmade collars which can be added to any outfit, they come in three designs and a wealth of different colours and patterns. So, it is possible to wear your favourite top on Zoom calls every week and make it look different every time.