Courtney Gabrus

@courtney-gabrus | contributor
″The only disability in life is a bad attitude″ Explorer. beach bum. encourager.Daydreamer. inspirational. Foodie. Frequent Flyer.Book worm.Stroke Surviver.Libra.Girl boss.Giver of good vibes.
Community Voices

This is for the worthy girls & boys.

<p>This is for the worthy girls & boys.</p>
1 person is talking about this

The Unpredictability of Life With Cluster Migraines

You are the dreamer of your own dream. Create visions of the world you want to see. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Gabrielle Bernstein in June — a spiritual mentor who has helped me through some of life’s darkest times. Hearing her love and support in person filled my heart with love. She looked me in the eye and shared that my story helped her and her husband through a very difficult time. In awe of this experience, I reflected on the path that led me here. Something I once thought was a distant dream became my reality. Although I was tired from the excitement and flying home from California a few days before, I continued with my day. In the car on the way home I was looking at my phone trying to ask Jamie to charge it, but the words wouldn’t come out. After a few tries, I was able to say it and assure her that I was fine, just “tired.” Before I knew it, everything was lights, like I was looking directly into the sun. I closed my eyes and blinked until I could see again. I took medication, drank water and assured everyone that what I was feeling was minor. Moments later, I was throwing up in agony. Something was wrong. My mom, a registered nurse, knew it was time to call 911. In 20 minutes, I was surrounded by people wanting to help. The thing was, I felt that nothing was physically wrong with me; there was nothing the EMTs could do. Feeling anxious as f***, I wanted to back out, call it off and tell everyone to go home. The people who rushed to the call wanted me to go to the nearest hospital, Glen Cove. My mom and I were not going to let that happen because Winthrop was the best hospital for my health needs. My mom works there and the doctors already know I have muscular dystrophy. I knew I needed help. After an ambulance ride that felt like a lifetime, I made it to the doctors at Winthrop. Luckily, my doctor understood this was a severe migraine and didn’t put me through multiple tests I didn’t have the energy to endure. My doctor told me he has the perfect “cocktail” of medicine to relieve my symptoms, which worked like a charm. The medicine put me to sleep and I woke up at 5 in the morning to being discharged, feeling myself again. They diagnosed me with a cluster migraine. Since I flew recently, my blood was thicker, resulting in clusters that could have developed into a clot if untreated. Thank God I was treated and they addressed the problem early. This was a wake up call for me to stop rushing, respect my body and appreciate the moment. My life has its ups and downs like everyone else. My video is a great way to explain my disease and how amazing my support system is, but not my personality nor the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis. After the hospital, I was on bed rest to give my body the chance to heal. I want everyone to picture themselves in my shoes. One moment I’m meeting my idol and the next I’m being wheeled into an ambulance on my way to the hospital. I was living my dream, then suddenly found myself in my worst nightmare, not knowing what was happening to me. These experiences are constant life lessons, like a wheel that never stops turning. I try to process everything that comes my way in a positive light. I take every day as a gift. Enjoy every minute of the good and accept the bad for what it is.

Community Voices

NOT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SEEMS

 

You are the dreamer of your own dream. Create visions of the world that you want to see.

I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Gabrielle Bernstein on Saturday. A spiritual mentor who has helped me through some of life’s darkest times.  Hearing her love and support in person filled my heart with love. She looked me in the eye and shared that my story helped her and her husband through a very difficult time. In awe of this experience, I reflected on the path that led me here. Something that I once thought was a distant dream, became my reality.

Although, I was tired from the excitement and flying home from California a few days before, I continued with my day. In the car on the way home I was looking at my phone trying to ask Jamie to charge it, but the words wouldn’t come out. After a few try’s, I was able to say it and assure her that I was fine, just “tired”. Before I knew it, everything was lights, like I was looking directly into the sun. I closed my eyes and blinked until I could see again.  I took medication, drank water and assured everyone that what I was feeling was minor.  Moments later, I was throwing up in agony. Something was wrong. My mom, a registered nurse, knew it was time to call 911. In 20 minutes, I was surrounded by people wanting to help. The thing was, nothing was physically wrong with me, there was nothing the EMTs could do.  Anxious as fuck – I wanted to back out, call it off, and tell everyone to go home. The people who rushed to the call wanted me to go to the nearest hospital, which is Glen Cove. My mom and I were not going to let that happen because Winthrop was the best case scenario for my own health. Being that my mom works there and the doctors already know my special condition of muscular dystrophy.  I knew I needed help. After an ambulance ride that felt like a lifetime, I made it to the doctors at Winthrop. Luckily, my doctor understood this was a severe migraine and didn’t put me through multiple tests that I didn’t have the energy to endure. My doctor told me he has the perfect “cocktail” of medicine to relieve my symptoms, which worked like a charm. The medicine put me to sleep and I woke up at 5 in the morning to being discharged, feeling myself again.   They diagnosed me with a cluster migraine. Since I flew recently, my blood was thicker resulting in clusters that could have developed into a clot if untreated. Thank God, I was treated and addressed the problem early.  This was a wake up call for me to stop rushing, respect my body and appreciate the moment.

For those who are reading this and have watched my video, “A Stroke Stole My Voice”, I want to share how my life has its ups and downs like everyone else. My video is a great way to explain my disease, how amazing my support system is, but not my personality nor the challenges I face on a day to day basis.

After the hospital, I was on bed rest to give my body the chance to heal. I want everyone to picture themselves in my shoes, one moment I’m meeting the idol of my life and the next I’m being wheeled into an ambulance on my way to the hospital. I was living my dream, then suddenly in my worst nightmare…not knowing what is happening to me.  These experiences are constant life lessons, like a wheel the never stops turning. I try and process everything that comes my way in a positive light. ENJOY every minute of the good and ACCEPT the bad for what it is.  Read this and take a step back at all the positives life has to offer and how it can always be worse! I take every day as a gift, as anyone and everyone should!

There Is Life After Having a Stroke

Many millennials in today’s world face certain challenges. Adding a disability and other chronic diagnoses to the mix make it all seem insurmountable. But the one thing a diagnosis or living in today’s world cannot take from me is my attitude. I live in the present moment and whatever challenge I go through is a lesson for me to learn from. It is an opportunity to grow. Throughout my struggles over my 24 years of life — muscular dystrophy, multiple surgeries, a stroke and many more — I continually remained positive through the darkness. My attitude was always my weapon, and with that, I will never be conquered. I want to share my life — my struggles and celebrations, my trials and tribulations — with the hope that someone, somewhere is moved by my journey and will become more mindful of the life they’re leading and their outlook towards it. If I can do that much by sharing my story, it will all be worth it. December 19th. Each year I feel very weird on this day. This date is important to me, more so than my birthday. Calling today an “anniversary” doesn’t quite seem right: an anniversary should be a happy day, a celebration. But today for me is filled with a lot of conflicting feelings: anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, anger. But December 19 is also a day of rebirth — my second life day! On December 19, 2016, I had a stroke that changed the course of my life forever. My stroke affected the left side of my brain and the right side of my body. Waking up and not talking was a nightmare. Looking back on it now, it felt like a lonely, fearful, awful world I would never get out of. In the months after the stroke, my family and friends worked with me as I put myself back together — relearning how to talk again, to gain strength back in the affected areas. If it wasn’t for my friends and family I would not be in the mindset I am. I am eternally grateful for the love and support that got me through it. Thank you mom, for everything you did for me — sleeping in a chair for 30 days while working, and providing me with the best care! I’m sorry I was a bitch for about six months, but without you to be my advocate, I would not have recovered as well as I did. I was lucky to only be left with right-side weakness and some heavy damage to my ability to talk. It could have been much worse. Worse than the physical injuries was surviving the depression the stroke left behind. I had to adapt to this whole new world as if I had a choice. When the stroke happened, I was in my junior year of college, living a whole new chapter of life. I was thriving with new experiences, living my best life, living on my own for the first time. I was going to my dream school and was being exposed to so many new lessons and opportunities. So when the stroke happened, all of this was paused, seemingly forever. In the immediate phase, I couldn’t speak and had weakness on my left side, which was frustrating, isolating and scary. But no matter what opportunities may have been stunted, what scared me most was the thought of losing my language forever. You may not realize how much we take the ability to speak and communicate for granted until you can’t do it. But I refused to let this fear become reality. I worked tirelessly to gain back my speech. And now, two years later, on this December 21st, my language is 90 percent there. When I meet people I don’t know very well, they’re shocked to find out I had a stroke two years ago, and that I couldn’t talk for two months. So that’s improvement! As I sit here reflecting over the past two years, I realize the big difference between my one year and two year anniversaries: all the “positive emotions” like gratitude, joy, hope, pride, and love by far outweigh the negative emotions. This mindset hasn’t come easy, but I learned not only how to move on from my stroke and the surgeries following, but how to choose the person I wanted to be after and the life I wanted to live. I wanted to be the best person I could be and live the best life I could, with the help of my friends and family who support me and coach me when I have those dark days. If I can pull anything positive from my experience, I will. I want people to know there is life after having a stroke. I’m lucky enough to have come out the other side, and I want to do as much as I can to help others like me.A stroke can affect anyone, no matter their age, race, health, status, or any other circumstance. A stroke doesn’t consider these things. Seriously, life changes in the blink of an eye. So cherish what you have, tell the people you love that you love them, realize what is truly important. Treat everyone with kindness because you truly do not know what battles they are fighting. I may have been able to tell death to hit the road two years ago, but who knows what will happen if he knocks on my door later today? So regardless of what comes next, I will continue to live every day as if it were my last, because one day, I will be right. And it’s what we do with the time we have that matters the most. In the end, your stroke will always be a part of you, but it is your choice to embrace it and be an inspiration to others by kicking ass through the tough times and coming out the other side victorious! “Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” — Oprah Winfrey

Finding New Beginnings After a Stroke

Hi everyone! My name is Courtney, I am 23-year-old explorer, beach bum, motivator, daydreamer, foodie, frequent flyer, book worm, girl boss, radiator of good vibes, caffeine-dependent life form who lives for the simple things residing in Tampa, FL. I was born with muscular dystrophy which greatly impacted how I navigate my world. Despite the challenges I faced, my disability never stopped me from living my dreams: striving for success and happiness. Transferring to the University of Tampa was a great accomplishment that started a new chapter in my life, and I was ready to thrive. However, I could have not been able to predict or prepare for what transformed the course of my life. On December 19th 2016, I had a massive ischemic stroke that deprived my brain of oxygen due to loss of blood supply. I was immediately taken into surgery where a cerebral angiogram was performed to remove the clot. The procedure was a success, although the damage had already been done. No one knew the extent of my brain damage, until I awoke. As I became conscious it was like my brain was cracked open like an egg and scrambled onto a plate in front of me. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words would not come out. I felt as thought I would be locked in my own head forever. For someone who could never stop talking, not being able to express how I was feeling and being trapped inside my scrambled head with my own thoughts tortured me. In a matter of minutes, my once preconceived future was ripped out of my hands. Although it may have felt like the end of the world I once knew, it was really just the beginning. Not only was I given a new body, but a new attitude and insight into what I believed was my purpose on this earth. I spent Christmas and New Year’s under the dull yellow lights of a hospital room. I was painfully alert, trapped inside a body that would not work and could not communicate. I formed thoughts and sentences but could do nothing with them. I spent the next month in rehabilitation re-learning how to speak, spell, sit up and stand. I experienced language and speech aphasia. I was like a child relearning how to formulate sentences and properly pronounce words. This was a long and frustrating learning process. I still find difficulty finding the right words, understanding what others are saying, and struggle with reading and writing. If you saw me a year ago, no one would be able to predict how well I would be able to speak and articulate my thoughts to others once again. Even though I no longer have control over the right side of my body, as a result of the stroke, I knew that as long as I could recover my brain by finding new ways to think, learn, and make connections, my words would come back and I would survive. But don’t let my optimism fool you, this was not an easy task. I was intensely lonely, trapped in my mind. I felt as if no one could understand what was happening to me. One of the hardest long term challenges as a result of my stroke has been the change in my mental heath. Depression, anxiety, agitation, and lethargy have entered my life, and continue to impact me every day. It is not uncommon for a stroke survivor to become apathetic, depressed, and have frequent mood swings, but this is something I never had to deal with before. I felt like my brain was set on fire and it was my responsibility to put it out and rebuild on the residual damage without any help. Losing a part of your brain is not like losing your memory. I knew who I was, who I loved, and what was important to me. I believe this is what truly motivated my recovery. I was able to retain the knowledge and relearn the tedious processes for doing simple tasks that had been wiped clean from my brain. This took time, patience, and the love, kindness, and support of my family and friends. Their encouragement and persistent positivity radiated back into my heart. I was lost. I lost my sense of self. Who was I? This is a question I still ponder, but now I finally feel found. I think back on this time in my life which felt like a never ending black hole that I was not able to escape. But I did escape. I learned from this long process that focusing on recovery doesn’t mean you have to stop living your life. Many of my old hobbies were no longer an option. This did not discourage me, but rather gave me an opportunity to explore new things that have become an integral part of my happiness. If you can make the mental shift and view this stage of your life as an opportunity to grow, I  believe you’ll come out stronger for it. You will need to accept the help of your loved ones, but do not ever back down in the face of what looks like defeat. If you feel like you can’t live a happy life until you’re better, then I believe you’re creating your own unhappiness by not living in the present moment. Living in the present is a choice that you have to make every day, and honestly some days will be harder than others. There will be times where you may want to cry and shake with anger coursing through your veins, but always remember there is life after a stroke. We cannot control what life has behind the next door. What if all we truly have control over is our response to what has happened to us? We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image provided by contributor.