Nicole Murray - My Life Rearranged
Nicole Murray is an Indianapolis native whose life forever changed after having two strokes at the age of 29. She regained the ability to speak after therapy and now continues to share her experience in hopes of helping others avoid having a stroke of their own. She writes about her journey of stroke recovery in recognition of National Rehabilitation Awareness Week.
My life changed in June 2014 when I had a stroke at age 29. A second stroke occurred within three months of the first. I lost speech function, developed weakness on my right side, memory loss, and the inability to think logically. There were other defects, but these were the main hurdles I would have to overcome.
The stroke took away my ability to speak, but thankfully I gained it back. Even though I had regained my ability to speak it was slurred and very slow. I spoke as if I were intoxicated. I also soon learned my thoughts did not match my words. Each day in therapy I learned how to make a new letter of the alphabet with my tongue and re-train my brain to say what I was thinking. Speech Therapy helped me to regain my speech back to normal. While speech therapy helped me to gain my speech it was my friends and family that helped me with logical thinking.
I looked fine on the outside, but my brain was damaged. My thoughts and memories were like a sandcastle on the beach with a rising tide. One moment I was present and conscious, and the next moment I was not. It made sense to put the milk in the cabinet and cereal in fridge. I remember a time the smell of burning eggs radiated throughout my home. I searched the entire house looking for the cause of the smell. This included looking under the bed and the cushions in the living room. It wasn’t until I walked into the kitchen and saw eggs burning in a pot on the stove that I realized what the smell was. I thought to myself, “Was I cooking something?” How long had the eggs been on the stove? I stopped cooking that day and my family began to help me with my daily task.
The first two years of my recovery, my family became my biggest support system. My mom made me drive everywhere. I had become self-conscious about the way I spoke, but she would ask me where I was going and how I planned to get there. I had to answer. She forced me to think further than the present moment. I did not realize it at the time, but she was retraining my brain to perform simple tasks.
I also have several aunts and uncles. They heard about the one-hour daily talk time I had been assigned by my speech therapist but would make me speak to them daily. Instead of only having to talk for one hour I had to talk for six hours. It was exhausting, but I am ever so grateful for their help and commitment to make me better.
With the help of my speech therapist, family, and friends, I was able to overcome many hurdles. I gained my ability to speak without slurring my words, I am now able to cook meals on my own, and I travel to new places with my friends. With their help I was able to battle the severe depression and suicidal thoughts that occurred after my stroke. It has been five years, and I still have a long way to go in my recovery. I may not be fully healed to where I was, but I look forward to each new day. I am ready for new challenges to overcome. I could tell you all the things I lost June 2014, but looking back on these past five years I have gained so much more than I thought was possible. I now make healthier decisions. I eat healthier and I work out more frequently. I also try to live every day like it’s my last because I know it very well could be. I no longer take life for granted.