Nineteen years ago….Paralyzed but not Powerless

Paralyzed from brainstem stroke, isolated in locked-in syndrome – life is over. Or is it?

On June 28th 1995, I was fine, fit and healthy. I was focused on myself, my family, my business, my success.  What’s wrong with that?  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, it is that there was nothing right with it.

June 29th, the next day, is a day that will live in the memories of my family and friends – and some pretty amazing professionals.  My life changed forever. But that wasn’t the miracle. That I had any life left at all – that was the miracle.

Nineteen years ago I was literally trapped inside my body – totally paralyzed from a brainstem stroke, and assumed by everyone except those that cared the most, that I was dead – or essentially so – not worth saving.  Stroke can happen to anyone at any age. In the prime of my life, a fit healthy young mother of two toddlers, I suffered the unthinkable. I was totally paralyzed and unable to speak or move. This rare condition is known as Locked-in Syndrome.

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From one-in-a-million chance of surviving, I am here to speak about it – because of those who cared.  My attorney husband was as determined to save my life yesterday as he is today about saving the lives and quality of life of others who suffer similar paralyzing medical challenges. He was not alone. There were so many others; emergency technicians, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, family – an endless list of others who cared.

People say it was my focus, determination and faith that pulled me through.  Some say it was God.  They are right – it was those two things – and a third: others who care as much about me as they care about themselves. These are they who care as much about others’ families, others’ businesses, others success, as they do their own. These are the truly successful ones.

No longer paralyzed from brainstem stroke. No longer isolated in locked-in syndrome. Life is not over. Today, I am a walking medical miracle. Though I am left with some limitations I am alive, and fully capable of focusing on what I can do – which is a lot. I have taken the “dis” out of disability and focused on my abilities with action, determination, persistence – and the continued assistance and support of those who care.

What have I learned over these nineteen years?

There was something bigger than just survival and returning to a life I would never have. A seed was planted during my months in physical rehab to inspire others. Reaching out and helping someone. Give of yourself when you can because when you make a difference for someone else, you make a difference for yourself. Remember always the wisdom of Winston Churchill:  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

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