Steffany - SURVIVING A STROKE AT AGE 24
Steffany had a stroke at a young age and shares her story to raise awareness of stroke rehabilitation tools available through Together to End Stroke, nationally sponsored by Encompass Health.
I lived a normal life just like everyone else. Well, what I thought was normal and later came to find out was too much for my brain. I worked full time, went to school full time and still managed to help my mom with the kids and her work. On April 18th I woke up for class, showered and started my drive to school. The weather was bad that day and half-way there, I learned class was canceled. Since I was already out, I figured I would go over to my boyfriend’s place.
We were watching TV when my face suddenly started to feel numb. I asked my boyfriend, who had just gotten a haircut if they put a new product on his hair because perhaps I was allergic to it since it was making my face numb. Then, my head started to hurt very badly.
The pain, along with the numbness, made me think I was having an anxiety attack from stress. At the time, I was taking finals and studying for the LSAT. I burst into tears and my boyfriend tried to calm me down by distracting me. I faintly remember dozing off for a couple minutes then I felt the urge to throw up. When I stood up, I could feel my left side getting weak and wondering why my arm felt like it was asleep. I walked over to the sink where I started to throw up and I could taste iron.
To ease my fear, my boyfriend reassured me that I hadn’t thrown up blood. At this point, when I tried to walk away from the sink, I collapsed. I had lost all mobility.
My boyfriend carried me over to the bed where he urged me to call 911 again - and I finally agreed. They asked him to have me smile and he confirmed my left side wouldn’t move.
Once the ambulance arrived, he ran outside to flag them down and had his roommate’s girlfriend stay with me. I tried to ask her what was happening to me, and this is when I realized I had lost the ability to talk. All I could do was cry.
As the ambulance carried me down from the third floor, I threw up again; but it was only blood this time. I felt at peace like I could just go to sleep and when I woke, my headache would be gone and everything would be back to normal. However, my brain knew to stay active.
As soon as I was loaded into the ambulance and on the way to the hospital, I started counting backward from 100 making sure I didn’t drift into unconsciousness. That was when my boyfriend learned that I had suffered an intracranial hemorrhage. I was placed in ICU right away to monitor my blood pressure.
On the second day, they placed a feeding tube in me since I wasn’t able to swallow due to dysphasia, and I even needed a sucking apparatus. My speaking started to return, but it was very, very slurred because of aphasia. Luckily I hadn’t lost memory, but I did lose bladder control.
Being constantly asked what was my name, why was I there, and if I knew what happened to me to test cognition was very emotional. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I ended up in a situation where I couldn’t even hold my bladder. I spent a total of seven days in the ICU; and on the sixth day, I met with a liaison from an in-patient rehabilitation hospital, who was able to get me admitted into their hospital. It was the first good thing of many to happen.
Once I was deemed medically stable, I was transferred to the inpatient rehabilitation hospital. I was scared of what the center would entail. As soon as I arrived, I saw nothing but friendly faces encouraging me with a simple smile. I was admitted on a weekend, but as soon as Monday arrived, I began physical, speech and occupational therapy.
My therapists were unique in their own way and just a perfect fit for me, being the correct mix of stern and sweet. My sister agreed to stay there with me to be my personal nurse, helping bathe me, change me, take me on strolls and assist with going to the restroom. Every single day was a challenge and I would be in bed and fast asleep by 7 p.m.
Little by little, I could start to see and feel the changes and I wouldn’t cry as much anymore. I was accomplishing my goals, which my main one was to stop drinking thickened liquids and be able to swallow correctly and be able to eat what I wanted. Soon after this, I took my first steps and started recovering my left side mobility. I stayed at the in-patient rehabilitation hospital for a month even though the initial stay was supposed to be a couple of weeks. The day I left to return home, I was walking only with the assistance of a cane.
I did not only gain part of my freedom, but also a second family.