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Through the Eyes of a Stroke Survivor

When I had my stroke 15 years ago in March, I honestly didn’t think I’d make it. I was in ICU for several days hooked up to many machines and being checked by the nurse around the clock along with neurologists coming in to examine me. I had so many things running through my head. I was afraid to fall asleep for fear I wouldn’t wake up, and I’d cry at night praying I’d be able to see my  nieces and nephew grow up and wondering who’d be there to take care of my husband and basset hound.

Once I was finally stable, they sent me to a step down unit before going home. It was here that I started walking with a physical therapist in order to regain the strength I had lost in my right leg. We’d walk a very long hallway for 30 minutes and then go back to my room where I could rest. It was exhausting. She told me it would take some time for me to regain strength in my entire right side, since I was temporarily paralyzed and the stroke had weakened that area. My handwriting was also affected, plus I couldn’t hold anything for long. I knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t, and I didn’t have any feeling in my fingertips. These were things I was hoping would improve over time with the help of therapy.

After I came home, the therapist came to the house to reassess me. She gave me the OK and I started physical and occupational therapy as an outpatient. It wasn’t easy since I had to do many repetitive things to get my muscles working again, such as doing the stairs, standing on a mini trampoline while on my weaker leg, and using the treadmill just to name a few. When I had occupational therapy I had to bend down to pick up cups, lie on top of a huge exercise ball and balance myself, and lift three-pound weights to strengthen my right arm. All this hard work took a total of two hours, three times a week but it didn’t end there. I still had exercises to do at home.

I felt the need to talk to other stroke survivors in a support group as I was feeling like half a person. I went online and found a link to the American Stroke Association. I was able to email them and asked if there were any volunteers I could speak to as I just had a stroke and needed someone to talk to plus a support group to attend meetings. One of the volunteers responded back and gave me the name of a survivor near me and meeting information.

I spoke to “D.” the next day, and she gave me valuable information on getting through the recovery period and how to handle the difficulties that resulted from the stroke. My husband took me to several meetings where there were speakers on getting back behind the wheel to drive, diet and exercise, and coping. This organization assisted me in realizing I wasn’t alone and I had to take it day by day instead of rushing to get better.

I continued with my therapy and worked on my other difficulties. When the year ended, I was finally able to drive short distances in town and had gained the strength back in my entire right side. I still had cognitive issues, but I knew it would take time to improve. Even if I wasn’t at 100 percent, at least I know I couldn’t have done it without the assistance of the medical group, my husband and the American Stroke Association. It was truly a team effort to get me to where I am today.

Getty image by OGri.