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Vanessa F.


Overcoming Obstacles

Having a stroke as a child can make recovery easier and faster. But it also makes finding your way through puberty, adolescence and young adulthood more challenging than it already is.

Vanessa Floyd was nine years old and playing at a friend's house when she developed what her friend's mom assumed was a severe migraine. But she began to experience left side weakness and it wasn't long before she was slipping in and out of consciousness. She was rushed to the closest hospital but immediately air lifted to the children's hospital after doctors confirmed that her brain was hemorrhaging. An emergency three and a half hour craniotomy determined that the cause of the bleeding was a ruptured arteriovenous malformation, a congenital birth defect she'd been completely unaware of prior to it rupturing. The surgery went well and even though it could have taken up to a week for her to regain normal consciousness, Vanessa surprised everyone by waking up and asking for the intubation tube to be removed within two hours. She was doing miraculously well, but the ruptured AVM followed by surgery was too much trauma for her brain.

Two and a half days after the surgery, Vanessa suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke involving the entire right middle cerebral artery. Doctors used what, at the time, was a cutting edge technique, artificially raising her blood pressure to force open the artery and restore blood flow to the brain while also managing the swelling. She was then put into a medically induced coma so her brain could rest and hopefully heal. Three weeks later, they began the process of bringing her out of the coma in order to assess the damage. Again, it was supposed to be a slow process, but Vanessa was attempting to communicate by blinking within 9 hours. Unfortunately, her brain was devastated. She had to relearn tasks both basic and complex, including swallowing, talking, walking and reading. The left side of her body from her face to her toes was almost completely paralyzed. But as she demonstrated in those first hours after surgery, nothing could keep Vanessa down for long. Months of intensive therapy led to impressive gains. When she got tired of the wheelchair she relearned to walk in two weeks, mostly to prove her therapists wrong! And when she started school again through a homebound tutor, her first report card was straight A's.

This all took place seventeen years ago this coming February. Vanessa is now a happy independent twenty-six year old. She graduated college in 2012 and two years ago she moved to Washington, D.C. on her own to pursue a career in politics. The left side paralysis is only partially gone and she has total peripheral vision loss in her left eye as well as some nervous system impairments. But there's not much she hasn't learned to do a little differently and she's living proof that the human will is more powerful than a stroke.


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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