Holy Limps & Holy Scars



I bruised my carotid artery in a car accident more than 30 years ago. The next day, a blood clot made its way to my brain, and when I awoke in the hospital, I was told that I had had a stroke that had paralyzed my entire left side. I was 23 and thought I was invincible. But I was being told that I might never walk again. I had always expected to live life on my terms, and that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Unfortunately real life has a way of happening. Seeing my reflection in the mirror, I realized that this was not the me I wanted to be. I felt a heavy sense of loss that I was not prepared to deal with.

At the time of my stroke I needed to be in control, and I thought that I could create recovery through sheer determination, will power and perseverance. And that worked for getting my leg back, but to this day my left arm is paralyzed.

The harsh truth that I learned is that sometimes you don’t recover. I wanted to, I tried to, but I could not write my own Hollywood ending. When my arm failed to recover, I plunged into despair until I realized the need for something greater than myself. Desperate, I fell to my knees and called out to God. My prayer was simple — "Lord, help me." At the end of my rope, I found God. (Actually, I think that it was the other way around.) I don’t recommend having a stroke as a way to find God, but for me faith became my source of inner strength. It was a blessing to give him those things that I could no longer control. I honestly don’t know how you recover without God.

I have a unique 30-year perspective on what it means to survive stroke, overcome some of the deficits and live with a disability. I have heard it said that when people experience suffering and loss they receive "holy limps and holy scars." I long ago accepted my losses though I’d much prefer to be whole. The truth is I’m better for having gone through it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I consider it a blessing to have met God by accident — a car accident!

I was doubly blessed because like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, I got a new heart, one filled with compassion for those facing similar struggles. I was forever changed, and as a survivor, I feel called to help others navigate a path that I’ve been down. As such, I have found purpose as a co-leader of a telephone-based support program called Survivor2Survivor (S2S). In S2S, survivor volunteers call recently discharged stroke patients to provide encouragement, support and guidance to survivors and caregivers.

MARK EGELSTON Survivor

Arlington Heights, Illinois

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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!