How old were you when you had your stroke? 35
- Date of your stroke? 12/10/2014
- What general area do you live in? Grew up in Paola, KS- but now live in the foothills of Denver
- Type of Stroke? Left side
- Were you administered TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator) within the first 3-5 hours of your stroke? No
- Where did you go for in-patient rehab? No in-patient rehab, but was in the hospital for three weeks and over Christmas. I kept having TIAs, and they finally figured out that blood thinners don’t work well for me and switched me to anti-platelets and the TIAs stopped.
- Where did you go for outpatient rehab? Speech therapy at Littleton Hospital for several months – still going.
W hat are your biggest challenges/residual effects? I have ongoing expressive aphasia that gets pretty bad when I am tired. I have some typical “brain injury” symptoms like getting really overwhelmed in noisy or loud places, can’t deal with bright light, etc… I also now have frequent migraines and nerve pain and some of the meds they have given me to try to treat that has been pretty awful. I have apraxia in addition to aphasia, but therapy helps a lot. I was / am a pretty avid yogi, and have noticed that I have balance issues now when standing on my right side that I never had before, and also have some very mild ongoing Horner’s. Any type of overexertion brings on headaches, dizziness, and worsens my speech stuff, so I try to rest a LOT and go easy on myself. Overall I was pretty lucky, and my strokes were mild.
W hat was something that kept you going during your stay in the hospital that might encourage others? My family was amazing – as were the nurses. The nurses brought me in a Christmas tree and were just so kind and caring, I don’t know what I would have done without them. The doctors were pretty flummoxed that my dissection had worsened, so it was pretty tense at times as they argued a lot amongst themselves about whether to send me to surgery for a stent. But the nurses kept it lighthearted and made sure I stayed calm and that my family was assured it would be ok; they had a sense of humor about it all and it helped us relax.
What keeps you motivated now? I am just grateful to be here. I have to believe that a higher power was looking out for me – as my mom happened to be staying with me for the holidays and witnessed my first stroke. I wouldn’t have been able to call an ambulance or text anyone for help, so I am so grateful she was there! Also – the doctors told me that most of my recovery would be in the first 60 days. I am 90 days out and am still recovering and my therapists say I will continue to improve for many years- so I have hope!
What advice would you give someone recovering from a stroke now?
I try to be forgiving and kind to myself. I get easily frustrated when I can’t do what I want to do- exercise, speak eloquently, go to a concert. I am learning to rest and to just be kind to myself when I am tired. Its OK to be tired and to say you need a quiet minute or two for a break! Its ok to have bad days and to not always feel positive and “grateful” all the time and to sometimes even get a bit frustrated. Overall, I think all of us survivors can’t help but be glad for the chance to keep on waking up and seeing the sun rise… Also, don’t be shy! Tell people about stroke. Tell them that strokes don’t affect intelligence! I had an acquaintance on Facebook make a comment about how “stupid” a politician was being, then jokingly ask if he had a stroke. It fired me up and put me on a mission to educate people! You can help, too!
“Its OK to be tired and to say you need a quiet minute or two for a break! Its ok to have bad days and to not always feel positive and “grateful” all the time and to sometimes even get a bit frustrated.”
What is something quirky/fun about yourself?
I used to be a professional opera singer. The doctors expressly forbade me from singing opera for 6 months or until my dissection healed. I thought that was pretty funny.
Any other missing details to your story?
I definitely had no idea that young people could have strokes and now I am on a MISSION to spread the message that it can and does happen. I want everyone I know to be able to name the signs of a stroke!
How did you hear about NOPW?
NOPW contacted me on Instagram. I assume they found me because I use the hashtags #strokeawareness (and others) on my little mission to raise awareness about stroke and aphasia in young people.