Keep Moving Forward

By Patty Petrula, Guest Blogger

Keep Moving Forward2014 was going to be my year…I was convinced! It was the year I was going to start training for my first triathlon in June.  My husband Chris and I joined the new gym close to our home that had a pool. We thought, this is January, new year new goals! This was it… let the training begin! I was running roughly 1-2 miles every other day and my plan was to get myself swimming in the pool March 1st. I figured that would give me plenty of time to be ready by June.

On February 20th, my husband and I went to the gym together. Usually, I would go on my own in the morning but for whatever reason I couldn’t make it in the morning so I went at night with him. I remembered just saying a few days prior that I was not feeling so good, but this was by far the best I’ve felt in a long time. What a great feeling!

I had finished my run and for some reason just felt “off”, when I turned to my husband and said, “I’m just not feeling this run”. The next few minutes is when the rest of my life was forever changed.  Since he was still running, I went over to do some weights. I still wasn’t feeling “right” but I just chalked it up to maybe not eating enough. I laid my stuff down on the bench and the next thing I knew I was holding my head and experiencing a pain like I had never ever felt before.  I described it as “thunder in my head”. That was the last thing I remember and I crashed to the floor.

My next memory is waking up at the hospital in ICU. My husband kept a diary on who visited me because sadly, I just don’t remember everyone that came to see me during my stay there…which happened to be for 25 days. When I realized what was going on you can imagine how scared I was.  “I what…what do you mean I had a stroke. I had a brain aneurysm?” From what I had always known…people don’t always survive strokes and many don’t survive a brain aneurysm.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, how could this happen?  I was, what I thought to be in the best shape of my life.

My last days in the hospital were deciding whether I was going to need a shunt in my head. This was the “miracle” my doctor referred to earlier on, me leaving the hospital with a shunt was my best-case scenario. Unfortunately, it was decided that I would need one. The discussion of me leaving the hospital and going right into a rehabilitation facility was also discussed.  We fought that, as my husband felt me being home with our girls and my dogs would be best for me.

After months of rehab and an incredible amount of support, I rallied and got myself back to work 4 months later. Back to work I went, I needed normalcy in my lifeKeep Moving Forward and I was going to do whatever I needed to do to get it back.  I thought being around people, forcing myself to shower and getting out of bed would be good for me, and I truly believe it helped me have a quicker recovery.

Exercise has been the only thing that makes me feel good. I never wake up feeling energized…but once I get moving and exercise I want to bottle that energy as long as I can.  I am definitely not the same person and think that it’s still hard for me to accept at times. I am altered, but I’m here and I’m doing the best I can. My goal is to push through it and not let it defeat me. I have since completed 4 triathlons and 1 Sprint Spartan obstacle race! I may not be the fastest, but I am giving all that I have in everything I do now.

My best advice to people is to keep moving, especially on those extra hard days when you simply don’t think you can. I continue to exercise as much as I can because I want to be able to fight and be strong so I am able to fight again, if necessary.  The stronger you are the better recovery you will have, and I am your proof of that. Survive and thrive!!!

To learn more about stroke, visit


The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.
The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.


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