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Karen G.


As I stepped out of the shower on the morning of June 17, 2010, I felt funny. However, I have never thought of myself as a "morning person" so I didn't think too much about it. When my husband, Joe, called out that he was heading to work, I didn't even think about asking him to wait. Only moments later, I fell off of the toilet, paralyzed on my right side. Luckily, I had read Jill Bolte Taylor's excellent book, My Stroke of Insight, only months before, and I quickly realized that I was having a stroke. After a few unsuccessful attempts to kick the bathroom door open, I realized that I would just have to wait for my 17-year-old son, Ben, to wake up so that he could get help for me. Since I knew that would be at least two hours later, I figured it was best to be patient (as a 30-year veteran of meditation practice, that wasn't actually a very difficult thing to do). When Ben finally woke up, I realized that my speech was also affected. My first attempts to call to him for help were unsuccessful, but somehow I managed to call just one word , "help" loudly enough for him to hear me as he passed by the bathroom door. He sprung into action in a way that would make any mother proud! He opened the door, ignoring my nakedness (except long enough to drag me into the next room and throw covers on me), and immediately called Joe at work. As was his custom in the summer, Joe had ridden his bike to work, and he told Ben to come get him. I tried to object to being left alone, but since I couldn't speak I wasn't able to make a counter suggestion such as, “Call 911!” When Ben returned a short time later with his father, Joe immediately assessed the situation and shouted to me, "Karen, you're having a stroke!" My response was to laugh at the absurdity of a previously healthy 49‐year-old woman having a stroke and at Joe for stating the obvious. If I could have talked, I would have told him that I already knew that, and besides, he didn't need to shout! Joe said later that laugh told him everything would be ok, no matter what happened. The next few days were touch‐and‐go; Joe told me later that the odds were against my survival. I had a hemorrhage, not a clot. But survive I did, and I entered Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital late Monday afternoon. From the moment I arrived, my attitude was one of quiet curiosity. I had survived, and now I was about to learn first‐hand about the miracle of neuroplasticity! Over the next seven weeks, I went from needing help just to sit up in my wheelchair to walking slowly with a cane. I went from a half dozen words to an almost normal vocabulary. The week before I was discharged, I was thrilled to start to be able to move the fingers on my right hand, and in the four months since my discharge I have regained full control of my hand. My walking and talking have also continued to improve, and I was able to return to work just six months after my stroke. My heart is filled with gratitude to have had this experience at a time in history and a place on the planet where such excellent therapy is possible. I've also been blessed with an incredible network of family and friends. My hospital room was literally overflowing with visitors, cards, flowers, food and other gifts for the entire time that I was there. I credit my amazing recovery to five things in equal measure: incredible support, patience, excellent therapy, perseverance and luck. I always try to support the other patients at MFB in all five of these domains, but I do understand how discouragement could take hold, so I don't have judgments about folks who aren't able to rise above their challenges. I just want to encourage as many people as possible!


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