A life time of recovery
A life time of recovery
At the age of 13 I had a major stroke. The next 16 years are just the start of my journey towards recovery.
At the age of 12 I was a happy, energetic and athletic pre-teen girl. April 1995 changed all that. While out with my family I passed out from a seizure. After a CT scan it was found that I have a cyst in the 3rd ventricle of the brain causing hydrocephalus. I was immediately sent on a round of doctors that included a Neurosurgeon. On May 3 (2 days after my 13th birthday) I went in for surgery in an attempt to remove the cyst. I had a Ischemic Stroke on the table resulting in complete left sided paralysis.
While still in the hospital I was showing signs that recovery might be possible so I was allowed to go home and attend physical therapy as an outpatient. What followed was 6 months of very intensive physical therapy. However, PT had to interrupted 3 times; twice for 2 more surgeries (the last one I had a shunt placed to drain fluid) and once for a bad infection that had me hospitalized.
By the time I returned to school in late September I was walking and functional. Middle school and high school is hard enough for the average kid, throw in the fact of having a stroke made it some of the worst times of my life. Not only was I having to deal with all the regular teenage developmental problems, I had the additional task of learning how to cope with a disability, finding my new non-athletic identity, social problems due to being out of school for medical reason, having accommodations placed on me that isolated me to a certain extent from my friends and peers.
By the time I entered high school I had a found my new nitch. Reading. I had turned to books while still paralyzed and this helped my reading and academic skills take off. In high school I was still dealing with a lot of developmental problems that were exemplified by having a stroke related disability, but I had a few close friends and become very involved in Girl Scouts and school academics and activities; specifically band and theater. Some biggest challenges for me during that time included learning to drive, maintaining friendships, and keeping up with my school work (about 25 days a semester due to illness).
I was scared to go completely away to school for college, so I compromised with myself and my mom and went to the local university, but I lived in the dorms. This allowed me to have the independence that any college freshman would want while still being close to my family for both comfort and help when I become sick. Fortunately by this time I was starting to take control of my own medical care. In addition to excelling in my course work I become very involved in a few campus activities as well as ministries at my church and in the community. By the time I graduated in 2005, I had a BS in secondary education and my first teaching job all lined up.
Following graduation I did two things simultaneously; I started teaching high school history and I continued my own education and perused a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Going to school was the easy part. Teaching is where I had the most problems. I am in at risk inner city high school and I had accessibility issues around the school, and even arranging the furniture in my classroom. Now, 5 years later I have it figured out to make things as easy for me, but there are still "accidents;" I trip over something or get my drop foot caught on a table or chair leg with causes me to fall. In addition to that the students do notice that I limp and at times they can be kind of rude about it.
Currently I am 29 years old, I work full time still, I am back in school again working towards a second masters in school counseling, I am happily married and have to hyper active puppies to keep my busy and entertained. Though I feel extremely fortunate for where I am (functionally, emotionally, physically and with my health) I would not say I am recovered. I will never be recovered; I will always be disabled and moving anything on the left side of my body will always take work and concentration. In the future I hope to continue to have good health and able to keep learning how to adapt to my limitations. The next challenge for me after I am done with school this time is looking into starting a family. At time point my husband and I still are not sure rather we will try to conceive naturally or go the adoption path due to my health and issues related to the stroke, but I am positive that I will have a child in a few years.