Each year, nearly 800,000 people have a stroke in the United States, 610,000 of which are first or new strokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In September 2016, I became one of these Americans, and my life changed forever.
Anyone who has suffered from a stroke knows that it is tremendously frightening, and recovery can be long and discouraging. I experienced a Pontine stroke, leaving me hospitalized for over a month and without the use of the right side of my body. A few months later, in December, I experienced a second stroke where I was again hospitalized. By the end of the year, I was partially paralyzed and weak with extremely low blood pressure.
My journey has been scary and tiresome. But five years and three strokes later, on World Stroke Day, instead of reflecting on the hardships I have faced, I am thankful for the community that has kept me motivated and helped me through my healing process—and that started with good care.
Having had three strokes with different complications each time has led to many emergency visits, specialty therapy, and hundreds of doctors, specialists, and nurses caring for me. Because of these medical emergencies, I have suffered from paralysis, weakness, black outs, concussions, and more. But no matter my condition or needs, Good Samaritan Hospital has always provided an extremely high level of care. Whether in the emergency room, ICU, or their Mission Oaks rehabilitation center, my care was personalized and attentive, and it ultimately kept me on my path to healing.
Good Samaritan and the many members of my care team were truly gifts from God.
I would be remiss if I did not also recognize the army of support I had from family, friends, and other survivors. Knowing that I was not alone in my journey was so crucial for my mental wellbeing and stimulation. It helped me cope, improved my mood and attitude, and reduced stress and anxiety.
Everyone deserves to have this level of care and support. And I recognize that I was lucky to have a hospital nearby that had great medical professionals willing to put in the time and a support system lifting my spirits. That is why my husband and I started Champion the Challenges. We want stroke survivors—and their families—to know they are not alone. We want to help them understand stroke signs and complications, navigate care and therapy, and advocate on their behalf because we know that it is a tough journey. But with the right tools, we can continue building and strengthening communities and reimagining and improving stroke rehabilitation and outcomes for survivors.
World Stroke Day is a reminder that we all need to become more aware of strokes. Chances are, we all know or will likely encounter someone who is a stroke survivor. Spotting the signs of a stroke, acting fast, and having reliable hospitals, like Good Samaritan, are crucial to anyone suffering from a stroke. I am one of the lucky ones, and I hope we can continue building our community, raising awareness, and ultimately, helping survivors discover what makes them a champion.