By Patricia Raya, Guest Blogger
I’m a self- proclaimed adrenaline junkie, I love to scuba dive, skydive, and ride a motorcycle. On August 17, 2015, I was going to start a new job in New York City. On August 10, 2015, my husband and I were talking about my new job and planning our next vacation, he wanted to go to Maine I wanted to go to Aruba. The last thing I remember saying was that I wanted to go places while I still could.
Everything was about to change. I fell asleep, and when I woke up my husband was holding my hand and told me I was in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital and I had had a massive stroke. I asked him how bad was it and what was my prognosis (I am a nurse). The doctor told me it was very bad and they didn’t know the true extent of it yet.
I don’t remember anything from my stay at the hospital. All I knew was that they saved my life. After I was stable I was transferred to the Brain Trauma Unit (BTU) at another hospital, where I got to start my new job learning to walk again, learning to eat, and learning to never give up.
They say things can change in the blink of an eye and that is so very true. I am a perfect example.
My daughter was getting married the following May and I told my therapists I wanted to walk down the aisle at her wedding. It was at BTU that I took my first steps with the help of my physical therapist. I decided that besides working as hard as I could and doing everything my team of therapists, nurses and doctors told me to do, I was going to make the best out of the situation.
My warped sense of humor amused my family, visitors and staff. I put a bullet hole and a mohawk on my helmet, and racing decals on my wheelchair. After several weeks, I had progressed enough to go to inpatient rehabilitation. Again, I had a fabulous team of therapists and nurses and doctors. My rehabilitation was intense and I continued making steps forward. My job was still to get stronger and be persistent. April 2016, I made enough progress so that I could go home and continue my therapy as an outpatient.
On May 21, 2016, my son-in-law walked me and his mother both down the aisle. I achieved my goal!
I am still going to therapy as an outpatient, where I continue to improve my walking. The ability to move my right arm and hand is slow and continues to be a work in progress. I am still working on some minor cognitive challenges. Again, I thank my wonderful therapists for their dedication, support and encouragement. My next big goal is getting my driver’s license back. I am currently taking driving lessons, with my license in sight.
People tell me that I’m an inspiration because of the size of my stroke and the 5 surgeries I had on my brain, and how far I’ve come. I truly am blessed to be alive. I had an outstanding team that saved my life and supported and encouraged me to get me this far. I am working now with another incredible team that is taking me further. I just have some right-sided weakness to my leg, arm and hand. I have learned that stroke recovery is a long journey that takes time and patience.
I’ve learned to slow down, and if you need help, ask for it. Simple things like taking a shower you need to stop, think, and plan. Walking, I think to myself, tight and tall with my right leg and left leg long step. Nose over toes when you go from sit to stand. Sleep is important for brain healing, that is when your brain updates itself like a computer. Although I have made a tremendous recovery, my journey is still in progress.
My mantra has been never, never, never give up. We are not just stroke survivors we are stroke warriors.
To learn more about stroke, visit http://www.strokeassociation.org
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Our mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. For nearly 100 years, we’ve been fighting heart disease and stroke, striving to save and improve lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.