NEW **Survival stories** Updated 11/5/16

Name: Cindy Starner

Year of stroke? 2004

Facebook link:

Born in: Columbus Ohio

Live in: Lancaster Ohio

Cindy's story,

I have 4 beautiful children, and 7 beautiful grandchildren.

I was at the diner I co- owned with my then boyfriend, it was my night, we were closing at 8 pm. I was helping my employees get things done and as soon as I locked the front door, I got the most intense sharp pain in my head!

So bad was the pain, I fell over a table. As fast as the pain hit it left.

We finished closing and I took our cook home.

I got home about 9pm, took a shower. I then sat down in front of the computer to play a game.

Our Sheltie Dog nudged me.

Thinking she had to go outside, I got up and went to the door to let her out. She oddly didn't want go outside.

She nudged me several more times ( I now know she knew something was wrong)

At approximately 11 pm I felt the right side of my body go numb. I instantly knew I was having a stroke.

I woke up my then boyfriend and told him I had a stroke and needed to go to the hospital.

He didn't look at me just said you are just tired from running a business lay down and get some sleep.

I said "no!" "I had a stroke!"

When he looked at me he saw the right side of my body was hanging down. He flipped out I was surprisingly calm myself.

We lived close enough to the hospital he put me in the truck and drove me there. The MRI showed I indeed had a stroke, I had a hemorrhagic stroke. (a bleed).

Most people who have this kind of stroke die.

I was flown to Grant in Columbus Ohio.

While I was in the helicopter and taken into the ER at Grant I was still calm.

I remember all my family and all of my friends were in the ER with me they were more scared then I was.

To be honest I stayed calm through it all.

I spent 5 days in intensive care.

I then was transferred to Grants rehabilitations floor.

There I impressed them!

I was walking 200 feet with a gait belt on within a week and a half.

I flew right threw Occupational Therapy, and physical therapy with no problem.

I was getting in my wheelchair by myself going to the bathroom with no help.

Also went to the dining room to eat on my own.

I was bored.

I asked to be released before Thanksgiving so could be home during the holidays. Not to mention I was worried about our business.

The therapist suggested I stay 3 months longer than the standard amount of time stroke and traumatic brain injury patients normally stayed.

I was going home!

I was doing great for someone who should have died.

I said I could do outpatient therapy at home.

So I went home , was told I'd be in a wheelchair the rest of my life I'M NOT.

Unfortunately we had to close the restaurant.

Since I had a balance problem, and I had months of outpatient therapy to do.

My deficits are my right side and is still numb.

I was right handed so I had to learn to write with my left hand.

I have to watch how fast I move ,because I still have a slight balance problem.

I'm a clutch by nature lol so that is a chore. I miss work so much, I've decided I may go to college online.

I already did 3 quarters of college so I have most of the basic classes that are required.

I'm thinking counseling either troubled teens, drug, or the slightly mentally challenged.

I keep busy seeing my grandchildren when I can. The stroke sites I've found keep me sane, and busy.

I've deeply aware God saved me, and I thank him everyday.

I've met the most courageous, and strong people ever on Second Chance Stroke Survivors Worldwide, I'm proud to call them my friends!

Cindy Starner

Survival Story #3

Survivors name: Dan Murphy

Year of stroke? 2009

Location at time of stroke: Baden Switzerland

In 2009 the company (Alstom power systems) that I work for required me to train in Europe for 7 to 8 months and they moved my wife Lori, My daughters Danielle, and Nicole to Baden Switzerland.

Although this was an opportunity of a lifetime, while in Switzerland, I suffered a ruptured Aneurysm in the brain along with a stroke that required 16 brain operations and I then spent 2 months in the hospital over there before being shipped back to Asheville and spending another 2 months in the hospital here.

I've been in rehabilitation therapy since December 2009 but am back to about 95% of where I was before this all happened.

I am paralyzed in my left arm and hand. I’ll probably never return to work, But am hopeful that I will.

This is why I have my work status as temporarily disabled.

Lori and I have been married for 29 years now. Who would have ever thought?

I have the most awesome wife and kids. I am truly blessed.


Daniel Murphy
....................................................................................... Survival Story #4

Survivor's name: Katie Papasavvas


Year of stroke? 2012

Lives: United Kingdom

Hello it's Katie Papasavvas here.

I don't drink or smoke eat healthy but March 2012 I had a major stroke no warning just woke up in the morning and fell over as I tried to get out of bed.

Completey life changing.

It was an ischemic stroke left side affected.

Lucky I'm right handed, I can walk even if not perfect, but can't use my left hand :( I had a normal life full time work car friends all the normal things.

No definite answer why the stroke happened just that I was unlucky!

I was in the National Hospital in London for 2 months.

After all the rehab I came home and found I was left on my own!

I now have a private physio and do what I can I was on warfarin blood thinner but recently docs took me off and now I take one of the new blood thinners which means I don't have to have blood tests nearly every week.

I also take Clopidogrel blood thinner so I'm always covered in bruises.

While in hospital the did a procedure to coil and stent in my neck.

I had a stroke in my right eye!

Really annoying but I have good vision in my left eye:)

I know I still have a long road ahead to recovery but I take each day one at a time......

Tomorrow is going to be a lovely day...................Katie


Survival Story #5

Survivor's name: Veronica Ilojoki


Year of stroke? 2012

Lives: Vassa Finland

Hello world! I am Veronica and 30 and i live in a city named Vasa in Finland.

On March 2012, I suffered a massive stroke I was only 26 years old at the time.

It started out a normal day. I lived alone. That afternoon I came home and just check my post and put some clothes in the washing machine.

When I got a really bad headache!!!

All of a sudden I couldn't move my left arm.

I knew I had just suffered a stroke and needed to go to the hospital right away.

I went to my bedroom and thinking I needed to take my clothes because I am going to be in the hospital a long time.

Then I passed out in my bedroom.

About 18 kl i wake upp bevis i her baad so my phone alraming i need to take i medicin at 18 i wake upp and go ty my door and try to open it.

It dosint go so i gelling for help and my 3nejburs coming i and get helpt to get the door upp and the call the ambulans.

After that i dont remeber mutch.

Before i wake upp inn hospital and adning way i am i her? The nurers telling me that i have sufferd i massiv stroke. I look at my phone and se many text from a friend ho now what have happend i rembmer on the 10 march i ask i nurses am gone dide ord live?the say vi hope gour getting tro this and live but vi cant say yes ore no.

The inn my home town cant find wer stroke ISS so the have betvend 8-9 march sent me to a spesialst hospital inn i town abut 300 km away from my home city.
The find är stroke ISS and start giving medicin.

And send me back to my home town.

Furst i cant walk and strugling with to speek.
Now i have to lurn all that.

After 3weeks i can go home.

But the stroke has giving me bad epilepsia and i cant walk with out support enymore The problems continou and inn fall 2013 i am inn hospital for 2months beceus i have hard allergisk and asthma. After 2months i desajded inn the hospital to move to a nuring home. I have gatt so hard to be alone after my stroke.

Today i live a gold normal life agen.
I cant walk with out support and the epilepsihia is giving me i hard time.

but i am Happy so Happy to gat i 2 chans to my life!!! I dont after my stroke cant take to muth stress becuse then i gett baad hedeck.
I need to take dayly napes.

I have met my boyfriend ho loves me evin iff its hard Somtimes.
Hi can still se me as a person nut all the hospital things and nut my many ather helth problems

Without so mutch support from my friends and my gudmother and the love off my live!!I wodint be ar i am today!!! That i now!!!

And i am so Happy today with my life!!! I can't do all the things like before the stroke but i can do much but inn my way with less stress.

Take care everybody!!! Be nice to all people and never fortet to evry day tell the pepole gou love to give them a hugg say that gou love them and that gour so Happy that the are apert off gour life!

Survival Story #6

Survivor's name: Tracey Lipscomb Schools


Year of stroke?

Here it is March!

First a beautiful spring like day!

Years ago the morning was much like today, birds chirping, sun shining.

I took the kids out to swing and spent most of the day outside.

That evening we went to a Wednesday prayer meeting and I asked for prayer feeling a horrible headache coming on, I asked for prayer for it to clear up.

I was a mom with 5 young children and I had no time to be having a headache.

So as we started praying I felt an overpowering heat fill inside my body as if I was on fire from the inside out I decided it was best to get up and walk it out and as I did the floor felt unlevel.

I knew I was in trouble and I needed the ER.

By the time I got to the hospital, I couldn't walk, my vision was gone and I was vomiting violently.

Those ER days were such a blur but what I remember next was a physician talking to my family telling them he was unsure of my prognosis.

I had had a vertebral artery dissection which is a tear in my artery they were unable to operate to repair as it was in my brainstem.

I may never walk or see again .

I had so many thoughts go through my head I thought really this is how my life would end this was my future I was young in my 30s really?

I started asking God why, why me ?

He answered quite clearly why not you who do you want it to be?

I have a plan for you. He reminded me in 2 Corinthians 12:9" My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness".

I never questioned his plan for me after that. I knew God was in control and it would be ok.

It wasn't easy the weeks and months ahead on me or my family. Learning to live with the disabilities of a stroke survivor and now, 10 years later I still deal with some. The blessings were too many to count God never let me down then and he still doesn't now.

I learned to truly lean on a savior who says when you are weak I am strong .

So when people ask me, would I not have had that day happen? I say no way I'd do it all over again.

Tragedies can be triumphs and a mess can become a message!

I am a stroke survivor through God's grace I'm not a stroke victim! God isn't finished with me yet!

Stroke story #7

Member Name: Sylvia Munoz

Year of stroke? 2010

Facebook link:

Born in: Yuba City, California

Live in: North Hollywood, California

Survival Story

On may 10 2010 I went to a chiropractic to hopefully get rid of a migraine that I been having for a week now.

I was told by my Co workers that going to a chiropractor would be the best thing for me. I made an appointment and went.

I was very nervous, since I've never been to a chiropractor before I had my youngest son go with me since I was so nervous.

The chiropractor adjusted my neck, and immediately I felt dizzy couldn't stand. He sent me home and told my son if I wasn't feeling any better in a half hour to bring me back.

I went home..............

First thing I did when I got home was vomit on our driveway.

My son helped me to my room and I laid down hoping I'd feel better.

I still needed to go to work.

About 20 minutes later my son checked on me, and I wasn't feeling any better. I was still very dizzy.

My son took me back to the chiropractors.

The Dr. asked me to go in one of the rooms, and to tell u the truth that's all I remember.

Apparently I had a stroke right then and there!

I didn't wake up from a coma for 17 days later.

My older son was in Afghanistan on deployment.

So my younger son had red cross try to find him. Since my youngest son didn't know what to do. Red cross located my eldest and flew him home.

Apparently I had a very bad stroke.

I stayed in a hospital for 5 months.

2 months I had physical therapy. I'm still not walking, I'm actually wheelchair bound.

My eldest son got out of the army to help take care of me, since my youngest son had been doing it the whole time.

It was taking a toll on him, since he was still in high school, he had to step in for me, since I was also going through a divorce before my stroke happened.

Plus he became my power of attorney and had to make all decisions for me since I was incapable of making a decisions for myself.

When I woke up. I had a tracheotomy. I was unable to speak.

My son David my eldest moved me to Los Angeles to live with him.

He had his dog help me with my anxiety. Very therapeutic for me.

I'm so grateful for having our Little service dog.

Moving to Los Angeles has been very challenging!

Finding a new Dr., A new therapist, and trying to get everything in order. Being that it's a big city. I don't get the help I did when I was in a little city.

But trying to adjust.

Stroke story #8

Member Name: Jerry Bellen

Year of stroke? 2008

Facebook link:

Born in: Unkown

Live in: Dundee, Michigan

Current city
Jerry's story,

I've been healthy all of my life. I was a track athlete in high school. I was active in college with skiing. I hiked and biked. In my 40's I backpacked in the Sierras in California for over 25 years.

I was a successful cosmetic dentist in San Francisco until Feb 4th, 2008, the day after the Super Bowl and SB party.

In retrospect, I didn't hydrate myself along with the wine and food which was not unusual. The next day, my wife and I had our usual gym appointment. We had decided to walk to the gym for our cardio so we could get right into weight training at the gym. She got delayed on a phone call so I left on my own. She said she would take the car there.

Getting to the gym required walking over a very steep hill which I had done numerous times. I always push myself and walk at a fast pace as I listen to music on my iPod. At the top of the hill, I stopped to retie my shoelace. As I started down the hill, I took my iPod out of its little "holster" on my left hip, adjusted the volume, and attempted to put it back in the "holster", I had a difficult time and thought it was my sweatshirt getting in the way. It wasn't.

My left hand just stopped working, but my legs still worked fine so I continued down the hill and as I crossed the street, my wife showed up at the crosswalk.

I hurried to the car got in and said to take me to the ER because I thought I was having a stroke.

Fortunately she saw that I was serious and got on the freeway to the hospital. We lived in the county(Marin) just north of San Francisco. This was about 3:00in the afternoon. Fortunately the Northbound commute traffic hadn't gotten heavy yet.

We got there quickly, got inside and was seen for exam. Again, fortunately the neurosurgeon on call was in the building and got me into surgery right away after a CAT scan that revealed a bleed. He opened my skull and drained off the blood which he described as a "lake". I had an AVM that ruptured.

Long story short, I was 7 weeks in an acute rehab hospital in san Francisco, then outpatient PT in a different hospital for several more months. Overall, I think my survival hinged on the fact that I was healthy and fit.

I recovered so that I could walk, talk normally, think, but not use my left arm which ended my career overnight.

Over time, I worked my way up to walk a mile. Then 5 days later I slipped in the shower and broke my left hip (my affected side). so it was back to PT. Sadly, it set me back in terms of getting out to walk.

My gait is more uneven and I have pain in my hip. My balance from the stroke is not as stable as before the hip fracture.

All that has not stopped me. I still walk around the house without assistance , grocery shop, go to restaurants, and go up and down stairs to do laundry.

Never give up, never give in.

Stay Strong,

Jerry Bellen
Stroke story #9

Member Name: Loida Bauto

Year of stroke? 2013

Facebook link:

Born in: Unkown

Live in: Rodriguez, Rizal, Philippines

I remembered a friend who once told me how he wished he could get my illness. And my reply was "Why?!" So that I can have a stroll and shop in the malls was his reply.

Oh I see. Isn't it gladdening that someone wants to exchange places with you when you are sick? Wow! That's sweet! But instead of being grateful, I replied "Why would I give you this? This was given to me!" I had an odd reaction. I don't even know why I reacted that way. I even owned it.
"My life could get any better?" I somehow feel like my life stopped when I was 21 years old or when the day, August 7th 2013, came into my life. I feel like my life stopped the day my AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) rupture. I feel like my life is on a loooong pause to date.

It was August 7th year 2013 when this happened. I was diagnosed with a rare sickness called AVM or Arteriovenous Malformation. In Medicine, it is described as small, narrow, and tangled veins in human brain or in other parts of the body. A person can have AVM in his face, hands, feet, lungs, stomach, and spinal cord but the most common is AVM of the brain. They say that this is a congenital condition - meaning it dates from birth. But they say that this is not hereditary. The cause of this sickness is still unknown. It can only be diagnosed accidentally or when the AVM caused a rupture, like what has happened to me.

What happened to me that day gave birth to a new me. I thought that was my last day on the planet. I don't want to die then. I am not prepared. Is there someone ready for death?

"Just don't have another bleeding," my neurologist reminded me. At first, the doctors were trying to treat me by giving medicines instead of surgery. I was prepared to be discharged on the last week of August when I had a re-bleed. The same vein ruptured again! So my doctors and my family decided for me to have the AVM obliterated from my brain even if there was a possibility that I cannot survive the surgery or I would be a ‘living vegetable’ the rest my life.

September 4, 2013 is the day of my operation. I have undergone an open-skull surgery (crainiotomy). The operation almost took 10 hours. It went well. Everything's fine. I survived. I thought, the operation can restore me faster to my "normal" state. But not yet.

December 14 2013, I had my second major surgery because of a complication when I was twice intubated before. It is called "Tracheal Stenosis." They removed 4 rings in my trachea that was affected. After being diagnosed with this, I thought to myself that maybe this is the time I'll die. In my mind, "I didn't die of AVM. Maybe this time, I will." But, not yet.

"Intrapontine Hemorrhage Secondary to Arteriovenous Malformation" and "Post-intubation Tracheal Stenosis"- are what my medical abstracts stated. I suffered 2 Major strokes and 2 major surgeries at the age of 21.

February 11, 2015, I have undergone another procedure, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery. This was my stay in the hospital where I really wanted to cry out loud. I wanted to shout, "I don't want this anymore!" I don't want to be admitted in the hospital again.

Almost three years have passed, I am still unable to walk independently and I can't feel I am already going 25 years old. I am growing old. While almost all of my highschool and college batchmates are busy with their jobs and others are now settling down to start having a family, here I am- learning how to walk and to write again. I may be left out from my batchmates.

There are times people told me that this is just a CHALLENGE or a trial to me and to my whole family. Some told me that this is the way of teaching or CORRECTING me. Either of the two, I cannot tell that this is just the one or the other. This is what I can say:

This may be a challenge or may be a test. If it was, I can honestly say that I have failed. For many times, I still chose what's wrong. My words often hurts. I got bitter and ill-tempered. I even cried when my brother jokingly called me a "Great Cripple." And I couldn't remember how many times I said, "I want to die."Some say that there is nothing hard with my condition. Maybe, it is because I was just staying at home - just sitting and waiting. But with how often I have wished to die, you may have atleast a little bit of idea of how I truly feel.

Many times I feel like I have failed the One who gave me this test. But I am still here in this condition. There's still time to walk this track better. I don't know where will my sickness take me. I cannot know to how far will it take my being. This is hard! - that's what I can say. This is hard to accept! - that's what I am feeling to what have happened to me.
Second, I can also say that this may be the way I am being taught or CORRECTED. A teaching that is not only for me, but also to anyone who reads this. I hope you'll learn through my experience.

I will give this a big round of applause for it is a success! I felt this teaching or correction to my life more than saying that this is just a trial for me. I believe those two cannot be separated.

Due to being stricken by an illness suddenly, people have given and made their own theories, estimations, or opinions about what happened to me. They say I am bewitched, enchanted, paralyzed, being punished by God, or worst, cursed.

My mother and I had a conversation about my condition one time. My tears suddenly fell from my eyes. I cried. "Mother, I am not crying because I feel sad." Yes! I feel sad especially when I am already worn-out of boredom. "I am happy in my heart" I added. I may not be like my other batchmates who can eat at restaurants, those younger ones that I know have now already their job, I may not be able to take a walk and shop in the malls like what I always see in facebook posts, nor give a gift to someone I love; but I have gained in my heart something that no one can buy at any stores in the world. This is more than the happiness walking and salary can give. I have joy in my heart that many hiking, trekking, outing, parties, seminars, or conferences cannot give. I have something that cannot be lost, cannot be forgotten, or can't be stolen. I have gained wisdom in my life that cannot be depleted even if I share it to the rest of the world. I have gained treasure "more precious than silver, more costly than gold, and more beautiful than diamond"

Now, can I say that I am truly cursed? Bedevilled? Misfortuned? Or pitiful? To them who believes I am, I felt BLESSED more than cursed. There may have been times I feel deprived of many things - of simple things, but I was given greater things that a normal life cannot give. I have prayed for a normal ordinary life, "but sorry are not entitled to it." I have been in an extraordinary experience- an extraordinary life. This is what I am entitled with. And to that, I am more blessed than anyone who can walk.

My AVM became the filter in my life that exposes and removes so much of my pride, impatience, and selfishness. Like John Farense stated, "What wonder it is if peevishness and impatience are brought out by disease."

For more of my story:



Stroke Survival Story #10

Stroke Survivors Name:
Lynn Turnbull Von Hoogenstyn

Year of stroke?


Facebook link:


Lives in:
Santa Rosa California

President's Birthday weekend 2011 my neighbor decided to do a massive yard clean up. We were cutting brush and small trees to comply with Cal Fire directives.

While on my driveway we were cutting the small trees and brush. The chainsaws were buzzing and lots of "timbers". My attention was diverted as I walked forward. I heard one of my neighbors yell, " Oh shit" and felt the pain on the back of my head. The blow knocked me off my feet and I saw stars. Not wanting to appear as a weakling. I picked up my pruners and continued on like the country woman I am.

I have always suffered from migraine headaches and was not worried when the headaches began. They became more frequent with near fainting spells. My doctor scheduled a couple of CT scans. They did not show the source of my pain. The end of March I lost my temper in a screaming match.

The next day I woke up feeling weird. As I was eating my cheerios the grey vision returned and I dropped my bowl and spoon. I was still able to walk. I asked my son to take me to the hospital. My speech was slurred and he thought I was drunk. I knew I was having a stroke. I called my closest friend and my speech was so slurred, she thought I was being beaten.

Coincidentally as my son walked into the room, a Public Service announcement came on the television, describing my symptoms as a stroke. Neither of us thought to call an ambulance.

He helped me into the car and drove the 40 miles to Santa Rosa. Kaiser Emergency took one look and rushed me back to a room with a Neurologist on her way. She told me my stroke was not the kind that could be treated by the miracle blood thinner.

My son had disappeared. My friend from Cloverdale was the next person I saw. She called my other son. The vomiting and diarrhea began. My electrolytes were out of balance and I couldn't keep anything down or in.

During the next night all the bells and whistles went off. Two nurses came running into my room. My heart had a complete blockage due to the electrolyte imbalance. A cardiologist came to my room telling me I needed a pacemaker. A day nurse came to my room saying how pleased and surprised she was to see me still alive. They wheeled me to xray for an MRI. Next to surgery for the pacemaker. I quit vomiting. I felt so alive.

A different neurologist told me I would spend one more night and be released. My older son drove me home. I fell getting out of the car hitting my head again. The next morning the vertigo and headache were back. My neighbor took me to the hospital. She stayed by my side. We found out the first stroke had caused significant damage. The second a TIA.

Kaiser physical therapy told me about the APE program. I have been attending ever since.

I have good days mostly. I can walk, swim, read and write again. Since I am 69 years old I only have to remember what I want which includes learning Spanish, training my dog, knitting and sewing. Thanks Kathy, Lynn, Paul, Desiree and all my coaches.

Lynn Turnbull VonHoogenstyn
Stroke story #11

Member Name: Dan Hetrick

Year of stroke? 2011

Facebook link:

Live in: Parkville, Maryland

Dan's story,

August 14, 2011 started off like any other late-summer Sundaymorning. Bright blue skies, late summer temperatures, no indication that I would be walking as close to a dirt nap as one can walk without actually collecting one’s heavenly reward. I recall having a slight headache that morning, but nothing that would prevent me from getting ready for and making the journey with my family to church where I was expected for early rehearsal as the praise band’s drummer.

Physically, I was in top condition, having been engaging in a running program since the year before that had facilitated an 85 pound weight loss, a dramatic improvement in my blood pressure and cholesterol levels and a vision of completing a marathon in October. In fact, my run from the day before in prep for the marathon, a personal best of nearly 14 miles was without incident and had left me with a strong sense of accomplishment.

The journey to the church was uneventful, with my four children chatting around me in the car, music playing and my thoughts on the music program for that day. Arriving at the church the kids mostly scattered with my girls hanging around the sanctuary to listen to the music being rehearsed for the services ahead.

When the clot shut down the arterial flow to my right temporal lobe, I was unaware as we were in the middle of rehearsing a song. My first indication that anything was wrong was when I became aware that the band members and director were staring at me as I continued to play on, stopping only when I saw the quizzical and alarmed looks on their faces. Beginning only then to feel the effects of my oxygen starved brain, I asked, “What’s the matter?”

The guitar player answered, “Well, the song was done and you just kept playing. What’s wrong?”

Confused, I answered, “Nothing, I’m okay.”

The piano player, looking intently at my face, said, “But honey, you’re drooling.”

Reaching up with my right hand to my face I discovered that I was indeed a mess, having drooled out of the left side of my mouth, down my chin, and all across my shirt. I also discovered how numb the left side of my face was, not realizing at the time that it was drooping, a sure sign I was in the throes of a right-brain stroke. Glancing down, I noted the stick had fallen from my left hand, and I began to lean forward to retrieve it. Had it not been for the quick reaction of the bass player grasping me from behind, I would have continued to somersault into my drum set, effectively performing a human one-stroke roll like no other. Recognizing that I was in deep trouble, somebody with medical training called 911 while other members of the band ushered my girls into another room. By the time the EMTs arrived, I had begun to slip in and out of consciousness, only dimly aware of the tests they were performing as the radioed to the hospital that the were bringing a stroke patient. I remember thinking, “Stroke? What? No way!” I continued to slip in and out of consciousness during the short ride to the hospital which I only vaguely remember, along with my wallet being taken from me to get the info from my ID. I was XRayed, MRIed and admitted. At some point my wife had been called because she showed up while I was being tended to in the ICU, waiting for the MRI to come back, and the attending doctor performing strength tests to my left side. When the films returned confirming a major stroke in my right temporal lobe, the doctor requested my permission to administer tPa to which I consented by scribbling something on a clipboard held in front of me. 10 minutes after the tPa injection, my left side began to show improvement. I was kept overnight in the ICU, and the decision made the next day to move me to Johns Hopkins Bayview Neuro Intensive Care Unit.

I missed getting a helicopter ride to Bayview because of the beginning of the arrival of Hurricane Irene, relegating me to the “safety” of ground transport to my new “home” for a week, where I would learn the extent of the initial assessment of damage and a forecast of the months to come. After a week in the NICU I was admitted to Bayview’s Sub-Acute Rehab Unit, where I would spend the next month learning what my new “normal” was going to be like, as well as building my strength back to take a few labored steps after a time. My physical training prior to the stroke worked well in my favor as the muscles in my left side began taking instruction from new parts of my brain, driving me to overachieve in the tasks that my therapists were presenting me with to perform. I had many sleepless nights as I had conversations with God – mostly questions on my part with few answers. I did eventually find a peace within myself that could have only come from Him, and it was then that I made a vow that when I eventually left the hospital that I would find a way to give back, to let Him use me to inspire and drive others that might consider themselves “victims” and demonstrate that to the determined mind there are no obstacles except those we allow to be placed in front of us, by ourselves or anyone else.

It was during my stay in sub-acute that several realities made themselves apparent: October’s marathon would have to be put on hold, and I would have to adapt my drumming to my new “situation”. I found inspiration in Def Leppard’s drummer Rick Allen, and discovered one handed drum roll techniques which I practiced incessantly. On discharge day, I was told it might be a year before I was able to return to work full time, which I was determined to beat ( and did by 6 months). I got my drivers license back (freedom!!) after returning to work, thus lifting the burden on my wife from riving me back and forth to work, therapy and home.

Throughout all of it to the present day, I have adopted a “never quit” attitude, driving a “celebrate little victories” mentality. Like marathon training, I found the biggest rewards from recovery by setting small but reasonably challenging goals(little victories), and then celebrating them as I met them, pausing in my forward movement to look back only long enough to see how far I’d come and then set the next goal. I still play drums – every week in the same church in which I began this unexpected journey, and the marathon is still on my “bucket list”. I do not yet have the physicality to permit me to run anywhere, but I have walked in nine 5k races since my stroke to demonstrate that my heart is made of sterner stuff, imbued with the hope that only my Father in heaven can provide, knowing He has a plan for me – one not to harm me, but to prosper me, a plan to give me hope and a future. And that is why I am still alive. I have become an advocate for stroke awareness and a defender of rights for People With Disabilities(PWD), as I chair the PWD Employee Resource Group where I work. My prayer for anyone who’s reading this, be they stroke survivor, caregiver or someone who is simply seeking inspiration from the story of another that you, too, may find the peace and inspiration I did, and drive through the hard times with a determination that can not, will not, be stopped, ever.

God bless
Dan Hetrick


Name: Velma

Link to her stroke survival story:

There were 2 ½ cups of blood in my cerebral fluid when they took the CAT scan. I had a thunderclap headache and just then the phone rang downstairs, I ALMOST lost consciousness but willed myself to get to the phone, it was my younger sis. My nephews Seth and Mark were begging to see me. His mom assured them they’d visit us in two months. “It will be too late, it will
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Survival story #13

Name: Tommy Salas

Year of stroke? 2015

Facebook profile:

Born in: Agana Heights, Guam

Currently lives in: Agana Heights, Guam

Tommy's story 

I had my stroke on February 6, 2015. I was at work (I am a police officer, assigned to Forensics, doing Fingerprint Examiner / Crime Scene Investigation work) training new officers.

The hospital staff at the ER didn't do anything....they scheduled me for MRI (the next day) and sent me home. Had I been treated immediately & got "clot buster" medicine, I think recovery would've been easier. I guess we'll never know because they didn't do ANYTHING.

I was in a coma (2 days) & the hospital doctors said, if I did make it, I would probably be in vegetable state. I found out later the nurse told my wife, Monica, that I am going to die. Well....I did wake up from that coma. I'm alive!!!!

Sure, stroke recovery is hard, but not impossible. It requires a lot of work trying to use your limbs again, trying write again (I now write with my left hand - took me 6 months, but I did it!!!!) & how to speak again (it only took me 10 months to reclaim 90% my speech back!!!). I'm walking (no cane & no wheelchair), my right arm is a "work in progress" (I can straighten despite the muscle tone) & I strive for improvement daily.

I believe that "Hard Work Yields Harder Results". It ain't gonna happen by itself.....You gotta WANT it, then MAKE IT HAPPEN. Keep fighting, keep improving (no matter how little that may be), & NEVER, EVER, GIVE UP!!! Be grateful to God....not many people get a second chance at life & "LIVE LEGENDARY!!!!" "My Road To Recovery" continues.....


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