Everyone has a challenge or disability and those that are more apparent seem to be the only ones we see. We can all learn from each other how to persevere, and win.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Shaw.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Prior to becoming a three-time stroke survivor with my third stroke occurring in 2019, I spent the majority of my career in customer service. My career provided me with the opportunity to work with healthcare, government and technology companies around the world. My greatest satisfaction came from managing a global customer service team for a company in the network and security space. The business grew quickly, and we helped secure some of the most important networks in the world. As a stroke survivor, my rehabilitation journey drove me to access the skills I developed throughout my career and apply them to what I believe is my new life purpose, which was creating a new stroke survivors foundation — “Champion the Challenges”.org. Founding and launching this during the 2020 Covid year inspired the passion inside of me to help stroke survivors recover, using all the resources available. I am focused and driven to create a new approach for the world of stroke survivors so everyone can reimagine their new future.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
My first stroke in 2016 was a PONS Ischemic Stroke (at the stem of my brain) which typically affects one’s speech. Fortunately, mine did not, it did however impact the right side of my body which I am still working to regain fully to this day. My second stroke was a TIA in 2017, and the third was a TIA blood clot in the retina of my right eye in 2019. I’ve spent a total of 22 days in ICU and 48 days in the hospital on my road to recovery. To this day the root cause of my strokes are unknown, which is the case in over 40% of stroke survivors. I mentally decided that I needed to try every type of therapy I could find to recover. This included traditional PT, OT, and Water therapies and non-traditional therapies such as (VR) Virtual Reality, HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy), Cranial Acupuncture, Quantum Neurology, etc. While I can’t remember the exact moment, but my mental shift came one day after the first stroke and an exhausting day of therapy. I made a mental decision that I needed to do three things to be successful in my recovery. First, to remain “Positive” no matter how hard things become. Second, be “Patient” with my rehabilitation, and third, continue to “Practice” the therapy exercises between sessions. I now call these my 3P’s of success, and they have become part of my life helping me move forward to improve.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness ?
Today, I no longer need a wheelchair, walker or cane and push myself to walk 3.5 miles every day. I am able to go up and down stairs without assistance and can manage all of my own self-care independently. These are big steps forward considering I was not able to get out of bed after the first stroke. Additionally, during Covid in 2020, my therapy was interrupted then stopped, so I decided to create a non-profit foundation for stroke survivors. My first step was to take all of the lessons and notes I had accumulated over my journey, and all the unique therapies I had explored, and find a creative way to make them available to survivors, families, therapists and caregivers. This resulted in me writing 10 booklets and providing technology reviews all available for free on my foundation’s website: championthechallenges.org
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
The 3P’s of success. Be patient with your progress during rehabilitation. Be positive, and remain positive no matter what happens or how you feel that day. Practice what you learn in therapy to keep improving. Your dedication and devoted hard work will provide you with a more enjoyable life for yourself and with others. I always try to remember that at different times we can be an inspiration to each other, and new people with disabilities can look to us for inspiration.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
All of my success is dedicated to my soul mate and husband of 34 years, Bob Shaw. He always had words of wisdom to give me a gentle push when I was struggling. He was creative in challenging me to walk further, exercise longer, explore what is available and new and schedule another therapy class. He then rewarded me with something special I loved, but couldn’t have much of,
like chocolate, or a gourmet dinner by candlelight. Who wouldn’t work hard, to be rewarded by a lovely meal with your true love! Additionally, I must add that my therapists are my life coaches. Therapists play such an important role in enabling survivors of any medical condition to get back into the community. Like any great coach, they helped me mentally and physically when I needed it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
By creating my foundation “Champion the Challenges”.Org. It is rich with content including the booklets I created and continue to write, can be read for free on the website. They offer stretches, words of inspiration, brain exercises, tongue twisters and much more. Additionally, I am providing technology reviews, and the stroke success stories told by individual survivors provide a pearl of wisdom or nudge you to keep finding that inner strength to get the best out of your life. I am in the process of forming partnerships to start to donate the booklets and the various stroke rehabilitation technology to hospitals and stroke recovery units, enabling survivors to have access to what they might find helpful.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- Be more curious about who they are and what they’ve accomplished in life.
- Pay more attention to them. They are filled with first-hand ideas on how to make the world better.
- Everyone has a challenge or disability and those that are more apparent seem to be the only ones we see. We can all learn from each other how to persevere, and win.
- We all need to develop patience for our life journey.
- People need to realize the true healing powers of pets. They make you smile, they care, and they can read your mood better than most people!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” -Napoleon Hill
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he’s a CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, and Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine. I’m reading his book “Keep Sharp” Build a Better Brain at Any Age. Dr. Gupta says we are equipped with the technology to rewire and physically reshape our brains. “Neuroplasticity & Neurogenesis.” What you choose to focus your attention on rewires the brain from a structural and functional perspective. I will benefit from reading his book as well as every stroke survivor — actually anyone. This is what we all need to read and do to “Keep Sharp” as we all age, no matter what the challenge or disability. The brain is the driving force of all of us!
For stroke survivors, check out Deb’s booklets “Champion the Challenges Stroke Recovery is a Process”: https://www.championthechallenges.org/resources/booklets/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!