Admire Your Struggle
My name is Trisha Smith and I am a junior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In my first semester at JMU, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a brain arteriovenous malformation rupture the weekend before Final Exam Week on Dec. 5, 2009.
It happened while studying for a psychology final with a friend in her dorm. I experienced blindness in my left eye followed by a severe headache. In fact, the worst headache I had ever experienced before. My friend's mother, who was a nurse and whom my friend had called out of deep concern, advised me to lay down in my dorm and put a warm wet cloth over my eyes to help the blood circulation. She initially thought the symptoms were caused from having strained my eyes too much. Thankfully, however, her mom also recognized the signs of a stroke, and sent her daughter to check on me again. At this point, I was already unconscious.
After the paramedics came, I was taken to a local hospital outside of campus where they did a CT scan. That's when they saw the very large bleed. After the scan, I was transferred to another hospital for immediate brain surgery. My parents, located in Germany, received the call of their worst nightmares, and caught a flight the next morning. Till this day my mother cries at the very thought of it.
After surviving the AVM, I was up against eight to nine months of rehabilitation where I did therapy at an inpatient rehab facility in Virginia, a military hospital in Germany, and a German outpatient rehab facility. I had to overcome many obstacles dealing with depression, short-term memory loss, visual deficits, and learning disabilities. In battling depression, I picked up a new hobby of creating short films to express how I felt to friends and family. I strongly believe that "seeing is believing."
I fought very hard to return back to JMU to resume my education, and am proud to say that I succeeded. It was very difficult returning because of disabilities and depression, but it was something I felt I had to do.
When I returned to my university, I took the videos I made during therapy and put them together to create a short film called "The Appointment." I ended up submitting this film to the American Academy of Neurology's annual film festival, and presenting it to students and professors at my university at an event I held during Disability Awareness Week.
I have since channeled this traumatic experience into a cause that I am very passionate about by speaking at conferences and other stroke and brain-injury related events. I am also currently working on an even bigger film project that goes more in depth into the journey, and am in the process of finalizing my 53-paged script that I have been working on for over a year. In some way, I believe this traumatic experience has offered me new meaning and purpose.
To watch my film "The Appointment": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8ccsP2ziNQ&feature=plcp