I am … a Survivor.
EBONY- The story of a young stroke survivor I am Ebony, a mother, an artist and a stroke survivor. I want to take a moment to tell you about my journey of recovery. First let me say, I was very ignorant to the knowledge of strokes and believed that only elderly people had them, ages 60 and up, boy was I wrong. Both my grandmothers on my mother and fathers side had strokes, one survived and one didn’t. Let’s start from the beginning. I woke up around 8:30am on that particular morning with a paralyzing, chronic migraine. The room was much colder than its normal temperature. I felt a strange intense tingling in my right arm as if it were asleep. I was starting to feel a strong numbness but I didn’t think much of it, I just thought maybe I slept on it wrong. At the time I had been experiencing some extreme tooth pains for about a week and assumed that was the root of what was happening. The migraine increased, the pain went from 10 to 100 as the day went on. I couldn’t take it anymore so I decided to go to the hospital. Me, my daughter and my boyfriend at the time went to the car but for some reason it wouldn’t start so after trying several times we called the ambulance and that’s when my life changed forever. I woke up in the hospital, completely oblivious to what was going on. I could no longer talk or walk, I was just sitting there in an empty room. Can you imagine being completely normal and waking up without a voice or an understanding of why? I remember feeling like dying and thinking “why didn’t I just die”. I had thoughts of things that I could not communicate. I was frustrated and just wanted it to be over. My daughter who was only 7 years old at the time came into my room and asked me if I was going to die. I felt like dying, but when she said that, there was an unexplainable shift that happened inside of me. “I can’t die, who is going to raise her.” I thought, then a sudden burst of tears followed. At that very moment I decided that I was going to beat this, whatever it was, not for me but for her. She was going to see me live and I was going to be the best mother that I could be. The doctor came in and explained to me that I had experienced a stroke. I was in my 20’s, how could I possible have had a stroke? So many thoughts took over my mind. I was scared, nervous, and anxious. I couldn’t stop thinking if I would ever be normal again. Was God punishing me, why did this happen? I struggled with having identity crisis, I was confused and frustrated with everything and everyone. I was paralyzed on the right side of my body. My speech was gone, I had memory loss and could no longer read or write. I was sent to a rehabilitation facility 2 days later and started rehab right away. Being in rehab was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. Slowly I was slowly discovering my voice again. After only two weeks I took my first step, I was so excited. I had been in a wheelchair prior and had foot drop so I had to wear an AFO (ankle foot orthosis), this particular brace is used to help enhance joint alignment and stability. To get back walking my physical therapist put me on a big belt that held me for support and also had me use the Vibing XL, a mobile lift that offers a smooth lift for the most common lifting needs. This helped them determine how much work I actually needed. I was determined to get back normal and worked double time to make sure that I did. My daily motivation was my daughter. I could see her face in my head, the way she would light up when I showed her my progress and what I learned. It made her happy to know she was getting her mom back and it pushed me even harder. I was in rehab for a year and 8 months exactly. Patience, practice and persistence were the key elements that got me through. I didn’t realize how many things I took for granted. Simple things like putting on my shoes, swallowing my food and going to the bathroom were no longer simple things. I had to learn it all over again. My family played a major role in my recovery, they were the best support system anyone could ever ask for, I’m so thankful for them. These past few years have been very eye opening. After leaving rehab I struggled with few insecurities, for example walking with a limp, thinking people were judging me. My equilibrium was off balance so I found myself constantly dropping things and bumping into stuff. I recently decided to take my life back completely and no longer let the fact that this happened to me be a hinderance to me following my dreams. Now when I look back, I have to give praise to the Most High for the giving me this experience and allowing me to make it through. Prior to the stroke, I was angry with life, with situations and circumstances I had been in. I was on a path of self-destruction and self-hate but now I see the bigger picture. Having to relearn myself was humbling. I listen more, I appreciate the birds in the morning, the trees outside my window, watching the squirrels and being able to brush my teeth again. Today, I am in the gym every day running on the treadmill, doing squats, jumping and lifting weights. The past 6 years have been very emotionally, mentally and physically challenging but I am alive and stronger than ever. Had it not been for my daughter I don’t know if I could have made it through. It wasn’t easy but I did it. My stroke gave me a greater purpose, much bigger than myself. I can now be a voice for other stroke survivors and people who have suffered from life altering disabilities. I am an example that anything is possible. Life isn’t over, it’s what you believe and what you make it.