Against The Odds
Andrew Bloom knows about overcoming odds. At just 44 years young, he is a three-time stroke survivor. The Boynton Beach resident is now sharing his message of survivorship with others.
Bloom's first stroke occurred at the young age of 21, while he was still living in New York. He was diagnosed with a malformation of the blood vessels in the brainstem, making them susceptible to bleeds and essentially causing a stroke. At the time, he was told that surgery was not an option. Relying on his determination, treatment and therapy, he went on to make a full recovery.
Over the next 17 years, Bloom led a relatively normal life. He was married, had two children, and moved to Florida where he worked selling medical equipment. Then, in August 2008, his brain began bleeding again.
"I had the classic stroke symptoms, paralysis on one side and slurred speech. It started gradually and became worse over a day or two," recalls Bloom. "I went to the Emergency Department at Bethesda."
Once again, the bleeding brainstem landed Andrew Bloom in the hospital. He spent three weeks at Bethesda Hospital East before he was well enough to be transferred to the Cornell Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine.
"I spent another three weeks in Cornell," he said. "It was intense therapy; physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy."
During his time at Cornell, Bloom progressed through various therapy activities. He worked on skills such as walking and strength coordination. He also did many repetitive tasks to rebuild the coordination between the brain and extremities. By the time he went home, he was able to walk with a walker.
"The staff was so caring. They were excellent. I really want to thank them for all they've done," added Bloom. "The patients at Bethesda are in good hands."
Bloom's recovery continued with Bethesda's Outpatient Rehabilitation after he left the Cornell Institute. More hard work allowed him to walk unassisted.
Over the next few years, Bloom looked for more solutions. He even went to Arizona for surgery in attempt to repair the weakened blood vessels. While the surgery was successful, there was still some weakness in the smaller vessels in his brain. In August 2011, he had his third brain bleed.
"It was a very similar experience to the second one," says Bloom. "I recognized the symptoms and went to the Bethesda Emergency Room. I spent three weeks in the hospital, and then another three weeks in the Cornell Institute.
Today, Bloom has once again recovered from what he calls a "life changing event." He can walk unassisted, although with a limp. He has decided to share his message of survival and recovery with others, hoping to encourage them in meeting their own challenges.
"Anyone who has experienced a life-changing medical event can relate. It's easy to become discourage. I just want to share the message, 'don't give up.' Keep working toward recovery, one day at a time."
In May 2012, Bloom published his inspiring story in a book, "A Bleeding Brain." Earlier this year, he began taking his message on the road, speaking to local groups about recovery and overcoming challenges; including the Bethesda Stroke Club.