Determined to Make a New Normal



On January 28, 2010, I had a stroke caused by an arteriovenous malformation in my brain that burst. My life changed in an instant: One minute I was getting ready for school as the acting principal of Hood School in Lynn, Massachusetts, and the next I was being rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital in an ambulance.

There I had a six-hour brain surgery to stop the bleeding and spent 17 days in ICU. When I came out of there, I couldn’t feel the right side of my body. Family and friends came to visit, and all my conversations consisted of shaking my head yes and no. By the time I left the hospital for rehab at Spaulding Rehab Hospital, I had graduated to verbal responses. That was small comfort for a talker like me. I needed work with speaking, writing and performing math.

One of the key elements to my recovery was my participation in the Intensive Aphasia Program at Boston University. I got involved when I heard a graduate student talk about the Aphasia Lab at Sargent College at BU and signed up to be notified of any studies that suited me. I got a call to test a new iPad app called Constant Therapy. I have been using it ever since. I can again write numbers as well as add and subtract. My division and multiplication still need practice so I continue to use the app and track my progress. I keep my iPad with me all the time so when I have to wait for an appointment, I can take it out and do some lessons. When my name is called for my appointment, I can pause it and go back later.

I have worked hard on my recovery. With the help of speech, physical and occupational therapy, I have gone back to work as a teacher. I can do many of the things I did before — movies, dinner with friends, shopping. I have attended different adaptive sports programs at Spaulding. I took my driving test last July and got my license reinstated.

I’ve learned that every person’s journey is different. When I realized that my recovery was not going to happen overnight, I cried myself to sleep for a month. After that, I was determined to make a "new normal."

Boston has some of the finest hospitals and universities in the world, so I took advantage of all they had to offer. I took all the therapy I could get. The Aphasia Community Group at BU gives me a chance to talk to others living with aphasia.

I still cry sometimes, but only for a minute. I think of my "new normal" life and smile. Yes, recovery is a struggle and it may take a long time, but use all the therapies that are available to you, and don’t give up!

MARY BORRELLI Survivor

Lynn, Massachusetts Mary

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear. We have trained several members of ASA's national call

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!