Written by Angie Burke.
Angie Burke, Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor
I was 46years old and it was a normal evening until my husband heard a crash and found me having a seizure. I was completely flaccid on the left side and my face was drooping. I was trying to speak but could not. He called 911 as he recognized the symptoms and knew that I was having a stroke.
The next 2 weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.
If I did survive I didn’t know what my life was going to be like? Would I walk again? Would I talk clearly again? Would I be able to see clearly again? Dress myself? Feed myself? Would I be able to take care of myself and my family again??
Initially I was unable to walk. I had no use of my left side, I could see nothing on my left side, could not recognize people’s faces – I only knew my husband because of the shirt he was wearing, I could not tell time, I could not write, and the list goes on…
While in the hospital, I had help getting washed, help getting dressed, my meals were brought to me. This was not the case at home. The first time that I attempted to dress myself, it took me over an hour. I remember bursting into tears. Here I was a grown woman and I couldn’t even put on a shirt myself. I either had it on backwards or inside out. The same struggle happened when I tried to cook for the first time. I couldn’t read, so how was I supposed to follow a recipe? I was extremely weak and still couldn’t see objects on my left side. I fell and crashed into things constantly. To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners. I was always covered in bruises. Everything was a struggle; from the time I got out of bed until the time I crawled back in again. I often became so frustrated that I would just scream. I felt defeated as I needed help with everything. I felt like I was a burden to my family and completely worthless. I was terrified that this was what my life was going to be like from now on.
I now have a seizure disorder. I take medication to control them.
I ended up suffering through a depression –oh the depths. The darkness. The hopelessness. The feeling of worthlessness. The loneliness. The despair. The loss of my will to keep fighting. The grief for all that I lost- my career and income, many friends, my freedom (as my driver’s license was suspended), my confidence, my entire identity, my self-worth. The horrible judgments that I passed on myself were devastating. After several months I finally started receiving the treatment, both chemical and therapeutic that helped me to start climbing out of that dark hole and gave me back my will to fight.
Fear in the beginning was crippling. It was my constant companion. I have learned to overcome fear and have come to the point now, where I can say that I refuse to live in fear. I live in gratitude for the day, today.
I have ongoing memory issues, specifically short-term, but have developed strategies to cope with it.
I faced and overcame all of it; I now work with stroke patients as a Stroke Mentor in the Peers Fostering Hope Program; it is such a wonderful feeling to use my journey to help other stroke survivors that are just beginning their own journey.
I am an artist; I walk with friends; I walk my dog; I ride my bicycle; I lift weights; When I first started, over a year ago, I could only complete my arm lifts with 2.5 pounds. I was so weak and had lost so much weight. I gradually increased the amount that I was lifting, and currently I am up to 25 pounds, even with my affected arm. I run 5k on my treadmill every 3rd day and hope to run a 5k this coming summer, I lawn bowl. I smile and laugh. I tell jokes. I enjoy my life. I am a wife; I am a mother; I am a friend. I am an award winner. I recently won the award for Extraordinary Women of Kawartha Lakes in the determination category. Most importantly, I take care of myself and my family!! I have faced the nightmare and I have wakened stronger and more whole than I could ever have imagined.
My message to everyone: Life will throw you curve balls, Life will knock you down, but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome. I’m NOT telling you it’s going to be easy, but I AM telling you it’s going to be worth it.