Ischemic Stroke at 24 Years Old
On April 21, 2019, I suffered an Ischemic Stroke at the age of 24. I still remember that morning as if it were yesterday; I woke up early, read the news as I laid in bed, and upon standing up to begin my day a single clot hit two lobes of my brain. Thinking it was a debilitating migraine, I waited three days before going to the hospital; I am glad I did as my body began to smell of death. After an intense week in the hospital and three months of seeing specialists, attending stroke survivor meetings, learning to walk and balance again, and working on memory and coping with partial blindness, I resumed working and living on my own.
Every day since then I wake up and it’s the first thing on my mind. I still haven’t fully absorbed the past year of my life. Every time I think about how wonderful God has been to me it moves me to tears. He gave me so much more than the stroke took from me. While I do wish this never happened, I don’t regret it at all! I don’t feel like this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. How can I when I am ALIVE? This is the greatest gift I will ever receive! Stroke is the #2 leading cause of death in the WORLD. I waited three days and started to smell of literal death before being dragged to the hospital by my mom and getting the diagnosis. Learning to walk again, regain memory and physical strength, losing vision...these things were the easiest things to accept.
The hardest part was seeing my family and friends upset, confused, and worried. I just showered them with dry humor and jokes until they were comfortable. Then there was not knowing how this would affect my future. The thought of not being worthy of someone I haven’t yet met and being a burden to them was my biggest fear, and still is something that camps in the back of my mind. I have learned to use that fear to fuel my faith and used it as motivation to see beyond what I was dealing with at the time.
The BEST parts of the past year were getting to spend extra time with my family, having alllll the girl time with my mom (it makes me cry each time I think about her strength during that time), attending stroke survivor meetings and meeting other survivors, leaning deeper into my faith, and renewing my sense of joy and my zest for life. I hope that I radiate these things ****** has given to me so others can seek out the warmth that His most precious gift gives to us all, and that is LIFE.
Most impactful was my time in occupational therapy. Without it, I would not have been able to return as comfortably or confidently to my life as an independent young woman. This life experience has taught me so much about my capabilities and has renewed my desire to live each day with purpose, ultimately leading me to realize my true calling in occupational therapy.
The impact of my own experience in occupational therapy after the stroke drives my desire to work with fellow stroke survivors. Facing so many unknowns after a traumatic brain injury, I want to give patients the tools they need to navigate and gently accept a new and unfamiliar reality through stroke education and the use of creative methods and tools to improve life, like I gained through occupational therapy. Whether learning how to manage stress, treating various neuropathies, or providing stimulating mental exercises as the brain builds new neural pathways, I will be there to support, encourage, and challenge patients. It is my goal to leave a lasting impression and to rebuild not only new neural pathways, but to pave a pathway in the lives of my patients that equips them with mental fortitude and a positive, healthy attitude which is critical not only to face life after a stroke, but life in general.
My goal on this career path is to not only work closely with stroke patients but to also become a leader in my field in research and education for survivors, their loved ones, and caregivers. Specifically, I want to focus on survivors that range in age from 20-55. While every patient regardless of age or ailment will receive the same quality of care, guidance, and support, I want to focus on those who are just starting the rest of their lives, those who are in the midst of families, careers, and parenting, and those who are preparing to retire and begin enjoying the things they have worked toward their entire lives.
I appreciate the chance to share my journey with others; I hope anyone who reads this finds encouragement regardless of where they are on their own path to recovery. My advice to any survivor is to remmeber that this too is an adventure, and a chance to see just what we are truly made of as we navigate this unique and unfortunate experience that has changed our life. May you use this experience as a foundation for positive, impactful, and inspiring change in both your own life and the lives of those around you!