In February 2005 at the age of 32 my life as I knew it changed forever. I was traveling for work in Florida when it all happened.
When I woke up in the morning I noticed a funny numbing sensation in my hand, but didn't give it a second thought. As I went about my morning workout at the gym I noticed my hand wasn't just numb, but it was unable to maintain a grip. It wasn't until I returned to my hotel room and took a shower that I knew something was really wrong. As I began to dry myself with the towel my right arm from my shoulder to my hand went completely numb. I lost complete control, my arm hung by my side as heavy as an anchor.
I was taken to a local emergency room and by the time I was checked into a room, my symptoms subsided. I regained the use of my arm although my hand was still numb. The doctor. performed a series of tests only to return a diagnosis of a pinched nerve, a misdiagnosis that could have cost me my life. I was given a prescription for Motrin and told to skip my gym workout for a few days. I returned to the hotel room and within minutes my arm went numb again. I was convinced the diagnosis I was given was correct and I wasn't worried.
As the day progressed the numbness in my arm was starting to expand to my back, and then down my leg. I noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to hold a conversation because I was unable to think clearly and concentrate on the words I was trying to say. As my symptoms increased so did my anxiety about my condition. I was far from home and fearful of the worst possible outcome. I made arrangements to take the first flight home the following morning.
I was so concerned about the numbness spreading that I decided to sleep in my clothes that night in case I was unable to move the next morning. I was in and out of sleep all night due to the discomfort of the numbness attacking my body. When I woke in the morning my fears had come true I was completely paralyzed on the entire right side of my body. I was taken to the airport where wheelchair service arrangements had already been made. As the attendant left me at my gate I started to cry. I was so very scared and just wanted to be home.
Five hours later I arrived at the airport in Phoenix where my then husband was anxiously waiting at the gate. As he wheeled me towards baggage claim my arm started to shake uncontrollably. That's when I had the seizure. The paramedics came and took me by ambulance to the nearest hospital. I relayed the entire series of events to the Doctor and he ordered a C.T. Scan.
It confirmed that there was a spot on my brain; either a tumor or a blood clot. In either case I needed to be transported to a hospital that could address my needs. I was transferred to St. Joseph's. I arrived at St. Joseph's in the middle of the night and was taken to the ICU. An MRI would later reveal the attack on my brain was caused by a stroke. The seizure in the airport was caused by the bleed in my brain as the stroke took over.
I spent 15 days at the hospital both in the ICU and at the Barrow's Neurological Rehabilitation Center. I was paralyzed on the right side of my body for 7 of those days. I had to relearn how to walk, move my arm, my fingers, my hand, comb my hair, brush my teeth, read a clock, basic math, follow a simple story. The list goes on and on. I continued rehabilitation therapy as an outpatient for four months. The second night I was in the ICU I made a promise to myself that I would recover; I would move my arm, walk, and even run again. I made a promise to run a marathon to support the American Stroke Association.
In January 2006 I fulfilled my promise to myself by being a participant in the Phoenix P.F. Chang's Rock and Roll marathon. It was not the fastest marathon I've ever run, but it was the most special. Finishing this race was the completion of my recovery; I was reclaiming something that had been taken away from me by my stroke. Only 9 months later I completed my second post stroke marathon and qualified for Boston by running a 3:38 in Chicago. In April 2007 I fulfilled a long time goal of running in the most prestigious marathon in the world Boston.
I hope that my story to triumph over adversity will help inspire others stricken by this deadly disease to push their recovery to its fullest potential. Having a stroke is a life changing event, but it doesn't have to take away the life you're left with. I will never be the same person I was prior to that day, but my life is mine and it isn't over.