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Allison O.

August 3, 2015

I am ... A Survivor

One weekend in the fall of 2010, I was a woman engaged in a full time career, my family and the challenges of daily life. Then over what should have been a normal day, my life radically changed. Two weeks earlier, I had a clean bill of health by my doctor.

I had a brainstem stroke and was locked-in. Locked-in Syndrome occurs in 1% of strokes, thus, it’s very rare. When a stroke occurs in the brain stem, depending on the severity of the injury, it can affect both sides of the body and leaves you in a “locked-in” state. When a locked-in state occurs, you are generally unable to speak or achieve any movement below the neck. I could not swallow foods, and could not talk. I had a feeding tube in my stomach and a breathing tube in my neck. I had absolutely no control of my bowel or bladder. I could blink my eyes to give “yes” or “no” responses. I required intensive rehabilitation, although it is a slow recovery process. I would need to learn how to control my arms, legs, bladder, throat, and mouth all over again.

I came out of my locked-in state two months later. I passed my swallow test and was able to eat three months later and was released from the rehab hospital, four and a half months later. My brain, memory and speaking are all intact. I go to Neuro PT and pool therapy twice a week each to work on my balance. I passed my driving test a year after being released and taking driving rehab. When leaving the hospital, I had 12 hour care.

Every stroke is different and every recovery is different.

I keep busy, but miss work. I wrote a book “Out of the Darkness” about my experience and am on the board of a stroke center in Virginia.

I have a wonderful husband and great friends. If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  The saying “Health is everything” is so true.




Alison - congratulations! What an amazing story.

I am a survivor of brain stem stroke too. Almost 3 years ago, when my career was going great and my health perfect, it hit me out of blue. Since then I have been recovering.

There is so much that can be done for stroke survivors. You are an inspiration.


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