I am … a Survivor.
Entry #1 – Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano
Hello, my name is Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano. Eighteen months ago, at the age of only thirty-four, I suffered from a stroke. It was a surprise, to say the least, and I am still recovering today. Here at John’s Crazy Socks, we want to show what’s possible. In that spirit, I want to share my story to encourage everyone recovering from a stroke, and in the hope that it could prevent you or someone you love from sharing my fate. Here it goes…
I was born and raised is Huntington, NY. Wanderlust led me to travel as much as I could. I’ve traveled to China, Germany for Oktoberfest, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Aruba, Caribbean Islands, France, Spain, The Netherlands, and all over the United States. When I was 23, I lived in London for 4 months. I loved it so much that when I came home from London, I decided I wanted to move there after I finished my degree. I met my husband at the tail end of my schooling, and he did not want to move…. Yet.
I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in History. For 10 years I worked at the Huntington Historical Society, and in the past 3 years I was the Executive Director. I was so excited to get the position. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted the Huntington Historical Society to embark on new programs. And, quite frankly, I was good at my job.
January 11, 2017 began as a normal day. I went to work with a headache, a headache that had lasted for two days, but I decided to stay at work anyway. Lunchtime came, and I went to get lunch for my team. Toby, Robert, Maria, Wendy, and I were in the office. I called my parents. They were coming home from vacation in Key West, Florida, and we had made plans to meet for dinner that night. Then I called my husband, Sean, and I told him about the plans to meet my parents later. As I came back into the office, I felt dizzy and sat down, then started to feel like I needed an ambulance. I looked to my coworker Wendy to tell her to call one, but the words wouldn’t come out.
I can remember the ambulance coming. I can remember being in the ambulance and looking back at Toby’s face. He looked concerned. I can’t remember much of what happened next, but I do recall Sean showing up with my sister, Christina, and then someone said we are going on a helicopter. This is where I went blank and stayed that way for the next 4 days.
People told me that I was recovering from my first stroke. All I know is since that day, I’ve had problems with my words. Once, I was an avid public speaker. I loved public speaking. Now, I go to speech therapy. My speech therapist, Judy Cavallo, is the owner of New York Speech Solutions. I’m still not speaking right, and I don’t know if I ever will. That’s a hard thing to accept, but I’m trying.
I knew I had to make changes in my career because of the new challenges I faced from the stroke. I left the Huntington Historical Society and got a job at John’s Crazy Socks. I’m in charge of donation boxes. I don’t have to write the grants reports, or the e-newsletter which is good because I have a bit of difficulty writing. I am excited to work here. I think because there are so many people who are differently abled who work here. Mark Cronin, the president of John’s Crazy Socks, told me that I am going to celebrate soon because I will realize through working here that my differently abled self is my fabulous self. Besides John’s Crazy Socks, I work two other jobs: I am the Assistant Historian at the Town of Huntington, and I am a Disney travel agent. It is a crazy schedule, but I love all three of my jobs.
I am married to Sean Napolitano, and I am the proud mother of London, my black lab mix which we got from the North Shore Animal League. We adopted London on the one-year anniversary of my stroke. He is 8 months and getting so big…. 65 pounds already. We love him. I live a great life. We don’t have a lot of money, but That never bothered us. I go out and I thank the higher powers that I am alive. At thirty-five years old, when I think of the rest of my life… it’s hard. But I try, that’s all I can do.
I want to share my journey to recovery with you. It won’t be easy, but I hope that you read my blog and find some strength and inspiration to get through any hardships you may face.