Em’s Story

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“Unfortunately stroke will take you down roads that you don’t want to go down. No one knows how their story will play out and no one has the answers to the questions that get asked like, why did this happen? Will I ever walk again? What will my life be like? Will I overcome this? What if…? So, here we are, too many questions, too few answers and a boat load of fear. Someone asked me, how do you hold your head high after all you have been through, my answer was simple, I’m a survivor not a victim! To follow is my story of survival, loss and understanding.

My story begins on the 30th March 2017 at the Duchy School in Devon, where I was teaching dance and drama, I was so proud of my kids, they danced and acted better than ever before. That was my last memory of that night it was a happy one. On 31st I awoke in hospital to discover that my whole right side was paralysed. At age 25 I was told that I’d had a stroke and might not walk again, after ten days in the Acute Stroke Ward, now the middle of April I was moved into a Neuro Rehab Unit. It would be the first time since my stroke where I was left alone. On my first night in rehab, I had real physical challenges. What a way to learn that my body was broken! 

At one point I thought I would never be able to talk again, I couldn’t utter a word when I had my stroke and that was the most frightening feeling. I chat easily, with some hesitancy and despite what has undoubtedly been a remarkable recovery, I have to think hard to recall words that I once spoke effortlessly off the tongue. I still can’t read or write I can only copy words that someone else has written down for me but that’s okay. I also owe a lot to this new app I found which converts text to speech and vice versa, so for now that’s how it is to be! Still four years on I am having speech and language therapy, slow improvements but better than none at all.

I can’t explain the feeling of me walking again, I cant explain, it was just magical. I did it, I walked. This may sound crazy but I feel that I’m a better person for having gone through this. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but living with the challenges has a way of changing your perspective on what it means to overcome. I look at the positives from having a stroke because it helped me re-examine and find strength. I have achieved many things over the past four years but probably my proudest is becoming a trustee of Living with Aphasia.

In my weakness I was made strong.  I was doubly blessed because I got a new heart, well sort of! You see I lost an arm, but I gained a new heart of compassion for those facing similar struggles. Perhaps the feeling I lost in my arm made its way to my heart. I am forever changed and I want to help others on a path that I’ve been down. As for myself, I am a survivor and I know that I’ve been blessed.

Stroke recovery is a process not a destination. It’s finding your motivation to wake up every day to start the fight again with the hope for a better tomorrow. Being diagnosed with aphasia doesn’t stop you from loving and being loved, we are still people…and sometimes I think people forget that. It affects people who are compassionate and brilliant and resourceful and clever and funny and hardworking and caring and HUMAN. Remember everyone is different!

I don’t know why things happen to people, truth be told, I wish that I wasn’t so familiar with trauma, loss and recovery but I am. No one knows how their story will play out so I encourage you to hang in there. Work with your rehab team and embrace their medical expertise and hearts of compassion. Others of us have also been down this road before. So the next time you are faced with the unexpected, unwanted and uncertainty, consider it might just be a gift. You can do it. We are alive. Sparkle and shine brightly. Thank you to friends, family that have stuck by me, you don’t know how much this means.”