Sue Granger


On the morning of February 23rd, 2003, I remember it took a long time to wake up. I felt like I was drugged. When I finally woke up, I couldn't move my right arm and I could not understand why. I managed to get up and stumbled to the other side of the bed, where I sat down next to my husband, Kevin. He was still sleeping so I kept pushing him with my left hand.


Once he woke up I kept telling him something was wrong with my right arm, and that it wouldn't work. Of course what actually came out of my mouth was only slurred speech and noise. My mouth and face on the right side was drooping, and I was drooling. Poor Kevin; this really scared him to death. We had lost my 48 year old sister just 3 years before, from a brain aneurysm. Kevin thought that the nightmare of that was repeating itself.

I don't remember much about those first 24 hours. I know that they took me by ambulance to our local hospital, but by the time they got me there, I was totally paralyzed on my right side. The hospital performed a CAT scan to make sure that my brain was not bleeding from an aneurysm.


They thought that I had a stroke. They then decided to transport me to Baystate Medical Center. My sister-in-law was trying to remove my jewelry before they took me to Baystate. As she tried to remove my rings on my right hand, she said that I looked at her and I very frankly told her, "She can't find her hand; she doesn't know what she did with it".

After spending a very confusing and restless night, I began to regain the ability to use my right arm, my right leg and some of my speech. After meeting my doctors and all of my various support professionals such as an Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, and Speech Therapist., it was confirmed that I had a massive cerebral vascular accident. It was then their mission to find out why, since I was only 43 years old, I had a stroke..

My stroke was a left sided brain injury affecting my right side. The resulting symptoms included expressive aphasia, the tendency to perseverate (repeating the same mistakes even though you know they are wrong), speech difficulties, loss of vocabulary, confusion, lack of concentration, difficulty reading, dyslexia, right side weakness, loss of sensation, and other physical problems.


I had a very hard time accepting what had happened to me. I am usually a very together person. I was the business manager for a multi million dollar construction business, and I also was a waitress two nights week at a lovely local inn. I was a very organized and very busy person. I thought that this couldn't be happening to me.

After I started to regain some use of my right arm and leg, and some of my speech, I rapidly continued to improve. After many more tests, my doctors found a birth defect in my heart, that I was not aware of, called a "patent foramen ovalle" or �PFO�.


I also had an added condition called "atrial septal aneurysm", which in simple terms means �a hole in the wall of the heart that separates the two atriums (upper chambers).� It is a weakness in that wall which allows it to move back and forth. These problems allowed a blood clot to form and pass from the right side to the left side of my heart, and then it went directly to my brain, which then caused the stroke.

My doctors recommended that I go to Massachusetts General Hospital and be evaluated by Dr. Palacios, who is a cardiologist and the director of their catheterization lab. My physicians wanted him to decide if I was a candidate for surgery to fix my heart problems (the patent foramen ovalle, etc.). Fortunately, in the last few years, they have approved a new procedure to fix this type of defect without having to resort to open heart surgery.

So, on June 25th, 2003, I was taken to an operating room at Mass General Hospital, and had two incisions made in my groin area. The surgeon opened a femoral artery and a large femoral vein. A catheter was sent up through each opening and my heart was checked for any blockages and the PFO was confirmed.


A device was sent through the vein side catheter, placed through the hole in my heart, then expanded to seal the hole. Once my surgeon was happy with the placement of the device, the catheters were removed and I was sent to the recovery room.

It was determined at that time that the hole was not completely sealed; the doctor said it may take up to 6 months for a complete closure. However, in June of 2004, I once again went to Massachusetts General to have a 2nd device placed in my heart, since the 1st device did not completely close the hole. At the beginning of January this year, I had my 6 month check up and the hole is completely closed, which will allow me to get off a lot of the medicines I�ve been taking.


I have very few residual affects from the stroke. I have lost most of the feeling in my right hand and it continues to be painful, although I have complete use of it. Fortunately my doctor has been able to get rid of the pain with medication.


I still have some problems with my speech but mostly when I�m tired (which is more often than not) and I still have difficulty with cognitive tasks. After spending two years in speech therapy, and cognitive therapy with my therapist, Katya, I have gained so much of the confidence that I had lost. I am also now back to work full time with the construction company and I continue to waitress.

Life has been very difficult these last few years and I still have a hard time sometimes, but every day I count my blessings. I am such a fortunate woman. I am thankful for my husband Kevin, my son Kris and his family, and the rest of our family and friends who have supported me through this ordeal.

To those survivors and their caregivers, be patient, supportive, loving, forgiving, proactive, and most importantly: never give up.

Sue lives with her husband, Kevin, in Massachusetts, where, in addition to working full-time as a business manager and part-time as a waitress, she also enjoys gardening, reading and spending quality time with her grandchildren.

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I feel like I just had to write and see how you are now.I too had my stroke at 43,am 52 now and getting ready tocelebrate my 9 year stroke date,happy to say have not stroked since,hope your as lucky.My name is Laree Martz,I'm a 52 year old survivor and grandma of 2 with one more coming in April.Your story was similar to mine,I had 4, TIa's then stroked my massive stroke in my sleep as well,trying to wake my husband too where he said honey your ok go back to bed.I had put my foot on the floor but could not feel the floor.My stroke was oposit side from yours,I have regained my strength in my leg and foot but my fingers are not nimble on my left side and I still have a lot of problems doing up buttons and trying to reach for things with my left hand,all I'd hear from people was your so lucky because your right handed but you hold and stablize things for your right hand to do with your left.I did pt. for many years and got to a point where I made no more progress so I stoped kidding myself and the therapist,I'm not one to give up but I fought the fight and I am realistic no more was coming back,I use it daily though and I can kinda diaper a baby when I need to and I can hold my grand daughter and grand son so I'm a happy lady.I was very blessed to recover as well as I have and I hope you will continue to make progress,god bless and good luck.Laree

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