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Kathleen H.



Kathy's Story

Never ever give up HOPE!

A sharp medical staff, unrelenting rehab team, incredible family and supportive friends, both longtime and those I've met on this journey... they all helped me. Now, I am here to tell you to never ever give up and more importantly, never ever give up HOPE!

On February 5, 2008, on my 31st wedding anniversary no less, I had a significantly severe stroke. At 289 pounds, with blood pressure and cholesterol always hovering at the very top of the normal range and thinking my glucose numbers were in check....I didn't see it coming! I remember that night very clearly and the ER doc saying, "Kathy, you've had a stroke. How long have you had Diabetes?" HUH? This stroke left me unable to walk, my sense of balance was totally gone, visual left neglect (an unawareness of anything on my left) and loss of all sensation on the left as well as a twisted left hand. There aren't words to adequately describe the feelings, emotions and sheer terror you have after an event like this. Within a few months, my vision was corrected and it has taken a little longer to get the hand working but it's nearly there. My balance was so off, I was not sure I would ever walk again. Interesting, before this stroke, I WOULDN'T walk a block if I didn't have to, then I COULDN'T walk and the whole art of walking took on whole new meaning.

Starting line A survivor friend and I decided to walk in the Heart Walk in our city. We made the entire one mile walk, but let's just say the event had pretty much closed up by the time we got back. I made that mile in 25 minutes the next year!

With that accomplishment I began to think about how much I have to be grateful for, especially to the two hospitals that both saved my life and also gave me my life back... so, I looked up how far apart they were... 11.8 miles. Could I walk 11.8 miles??? Never would have pursued that before the stroke... Well, I did it! I and about 60 other people walked that 11.8 miles to not only thank those two hospitals but again, to tell survivors they cannot ever quit!

John Quincy Adams once said "Perseverance and courage have a magical talisman over which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air". To all survivors I say, "Perseverance and courage"! Thanks to organizations, hospitals and educational institutions, there is great research being done, so who knows! If you aren't walking, say, "I'm not walking YET! Even if you aren't speaking, think "I am not speaking YET".

This has been the most difficult, most blessing filled, most rewarding journey of my life. You can't sugarcoat it, that's for sure. Those who haven't had a stroke will never quite know all that we go through. That is why education is key... education about preventing strokes and educating the general public about survivors of stroke and never making assumptions about survivors. Just as there are no two snowflakes alike, I say there are no two strokes exactly alike.

We started an organization, the ABC BRIGADE...A= A1c, B= Blood Pressure and C= Cholesterol.  We even have a website abcbrigade.org and on Saturday, May 21, we are hosting the first St. Louis Stroke Awareness Fair!  We have over 30 booths so I am thrilled.

Just do not give up and more importantly, do not give up hope!


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