Kendall Burton – The Strange Truth
Kendall Burton is a former college softball player who survived an acute ischemic stroke in her dorm room at age 18 after overcoming a birth defect that led her to 23 surgeries by 17. She went on to make it to the Women’s College World Series just four years after her stroke. Her perspective gained from her stroke is leading her on a journey of positive, honest impact to others. She writes in honor of World Stroke Day.
I was 18. I was a college athlete. I was weeks into my freshman year of college. I was strong. I was naive. I was innocent. I was overly optimistic. I was indecisive. I was hard-working. I was fragile, yet confident.
I survived a stroke alone in my dorm room at age 18, but there are things they didn’t tell me.
The doctors explain the obvious things- what the damage is, what they expect moving forward, the skills that have been hindered, the medications you need to start taking. The doctors refer you to a physical therapist and speech pathologist who provides you exercises to do daily, worksheets to complete, games to play to help you gain your speech, reading and writing back. They pack your things tightly and neatly into the car and send you down the road to recovery, to help you get back to your ‘old self.’ Before the traumatic event that imploded in your life like a nuclear bomb.
But I wish they would have told me that I will never be my old self again. No, my personality didn’t change nor did my dreams of playing collegiate softball. But I was different; I was uncomfortable, I was always in distress pretending to look ‘normal’ to the outside world. I was an 18-year-old girl who had undergone 23 surgeries in her lifetime and was now mastering the art of ‘faking it ‘til I make it.’ My teammates lifted at 5am, attended their Economics class, and took the field together every day. Me on the other hand was taking 10 naps a day because a 20-minute conversation left me exhausted. I was trying to spell the words ‘cat’ and ‘good.’ I was talking a million miles a minute hoping that a least a few words were right so I could hold a conversation with my best friends. My reality became something out of a movie and my dreams became much more simple- just talk, just write, just read again.
I felt a sense of loss of the person I once was. I missed her and her effortless energy. I missed her being able to make a joke, I missed her being able to text back witty comments, I missed her innocent outlook on life.
But my new self… Wow. She is bold, she is relentless, she is focused, she is more kind, she is empathetic, she is uplifting, she is courageous, she is fearless. She is who I was meant to become. I became the person I was supposed to be through the struggles and trials of being a stroke survivor.
I am 24. I am a former college athlete with a college degree. I am fearless. I am knowledgeable. I am wise. I am optimistic with a splash of realism. I am deliberate. I am resilient. I am confident. I am better than I ever was before.