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
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