Terra Norris - Giving birth, then a stroke—all during a global pandemic
Terra lives with her two children and husband in Virginia. She shares her story to raise awareness of the stroke rehabilitation journey. You can read more about life after stroke on the American Stroke Association’s website. The American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative is nationally sponsored by Encompass Health.
It was supposed to be a happy time—exhausting, but happy.
I had just returned home with my new baby girl. The delivery went smoothly, and we were looking forward to getting settled as a new family of four.
Sophia Grace was born two weeks early; and I’m thankful for that every day. On the day my daughter was supposed to arrive, my world was turned upside down. It was a Sunday night. I had this weird ringing in my ear and was dizzy. I thought I was getting a migraine.
It wasn’t, though; it was something much more serious. My husband quickly called a friend who is a nurse, and based on my slurred speech, she advised we to go to the emergency department immediately—I was having a stroke.
I spent two weeks in the hospital and another two in rehabilitation. There, I was highly motivated to get better—I wanted to hold my baby girl and hug my 3-year-old son—something I couldn’t do, and not only because of the condition, the stroke left me in.
I was admitted to the acute hospital on March 29, a time when strict visitation policies were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a relief when I arrived at the rehabilitation hospital; as my primary caregiver, my husband, was allowed to see me, and my family was directed to my hospital room window. That was a very motivating moment for me, because I knew it would take work to be able to care for my children again.
I missed them both like crazy. It was really hard on my son because he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see me, and I wanted to hold my baby girl. I was so worried she wouldn’t even remember me. When you have a baby, that skin-to-skin contact is so important. My kids were my motivation to keep going and get stronger every day. That helped me make it through.
When I started rehabilitation, I had little movement on my right side, and my speech was slurred and off. After a few days, my speech therapist and I both noticed a drastic improvement in my speech. I also worked with a physical therapist to regain strength and an occupational therapist to help me relearn those daily tasks to help me care for my family again.
I was in the rehabilitation hospital for about two weeks. My homecoming was just wonderful. I held my daughter in my arms all day long. My son was a little confused, especially when he saw the walker, but as the day went on he got back to himself. He told me he was glad I was back from the hospital. That just melted my heart.
If it wasn’t for the staff at the rehabilitation hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to stay positive.
They just treated me with kindness and really cared about me. They made me work hard, but that’s what got me home.