Petra Morales

It was an afternoon in October, 2015 and I was at home with my son, and I didn’t feel well.  I was supposed to be getting ready to attend a birthday party, but I couldn’t.  My headache was so painful that I just had to lay down.  While walking to the bed, I knew something was terribly wrong.  As I tried to fall asleep, I fell off the bed.  When Clinton, my husband, and daughter came home and discovered what was happening, I tried to convince them things would be fine, but Clinton wisely called 911. The only thing I remember telling the paramedics and my family was, “get my student papers packed up, as I will need to finish grading them if I am going to the hospital.”

After one week in ICU and surviving a Hemorrhagic Stroke which impacted my right-side mobility combined with Aphasia impacting my ability to speak; I realized I was on a new life path with the starting point being 30 days at the Mission Oaks Rehabilitation Center. Yes, I was grateful for being a survivor, but extremely frustrated that I couldn’t walk or speak and was unsure what was next.  I was a history teacher, and a voracious reader and now my Aphasia forced me to relearn how to speak, plus I needed to regain my mobility.  My 30 days as an inpatient rehabilitation survivor was focused on aggressive therapy every day.  My therapists were amazing coaches at helping me physically and mentally. They knew exactly what to do each day to help me regain mobility and restart my speech.  In a strange turn of life events, I had actually become the student and the therapists were my teachers, helping me learn and improve on my new life path. Let me be clear, it was hard and frustrating, very frustrating, and yes, I was mad at myself, and not sure why but I was determined to keep pushing forward with the loving support of my family, friends, and therapists.

And then one day things just shifted for me, I left the frustration behind and focused on the forward path.  My speech started to improve, and I graduated from the wheelchair and began using a walking stick.  Life was filled with many new lessons and daily therapies.  We found that companies like Blue Apron; an at-home ingredient-and-recipe meal kit, became home therapy that involved the family.  My children read the recipes and we would work together to create the meals.  Prior to my stroke, I was a non-recipe make everything from memory chef (not exactly).  However, now cooking was a real challenge, because I couldn’t pull the recipes from my memory yet, plus I couldn’t really read and convert the Blue Apron recipe into the right steps.  I did know when and how we needed to use the oven and stove which was a big help.  The kids and I had a lot of fun as a cooking team.  The meals were great and actually looked just like the pictures on the recipe cards.

I am back driving the car and enjoy trips to Santa Barbara to visit my parents, along with driving myself to outpatient therapy.  I have continued consistently going to outpatient therapy over the past 5 1/2 years, except for the Covid-19 gap of closures.  While I have not returned to teaching, I have found a new love in gardening, baking, and living life to the fullest with my family and friends.  I began baking bread and delivering loaves to friends and neighbors.  Also, I get the greatest joy and happiness out of working in the garden and admiring the beauty of life and the newest arrivals that the garden has provided.  I have also learned that when I need a break, it is fine to take a short nap, or just sit in the front yard under the umbrella in my favorite chair and admire my succulents (or weeding!)  Looking at and admiring the succulents is so relaxing and provides me time to reflect on how lucky and proud I am of my life, family, and dear friends.