Lisa Satchfield's Why
Before Lisa Satchfield had a stroke in 2007, there were indications that something was wrong — her left side went limp in the shower, she had tingling in her left arm and hand and a migraine that lasted two days. She contacted her doctor, who’d recently seen her and said she sounded OK over the phone, telling her, “Just take it easy.”
That night, June 2nd, she had a massive stroke in her sleep. When she woke up the next morning, her left side was completely numb. She could not stand and her speech was “gibberish,” according to Brendan, her son, 8 years old at the time. Her daughter Madison, age 9, tried to comfort her 44-year-old mom by putting her head in her lap and stroking her hair. Brendan toasted her a waffle.
Fortunately, her friend Sandi happened to call. “I couldn’t talk. Only one word: stroke,” Lisa recalled. Sandi telephoned 911.
“It felt like an out of body experience, saying nothing, looking at the eyes of the paramedics. I knew it was bad,” Lisa said.
She managed to indicate that she wanted to go to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, where she worked as a senior accounting manager. The hospital had just hired a stroke specialist.
Doctors determined she’d had the stroke six hours earlier caused by dissected carotid artery. It was too late for tPA. “I stayed one week in the hospital and two months in inpatient rehab,” she said. Her doctor there said it was unlikely she would ever walk again, but she worked hard to prove him wrong. “In rehab I learned to talk and write and read and mostly walk … again!” She later discovered that her mother had had heart problems starting at age 55 and died of a stroke and heart attack. Her maternal aunt had died of a brain aneurysm at 45.
But there were more struggles to come. Her right side was (and is) affected. She could not return to her corporate job and eventually lost custody of her children, when her ex-husband claimed she was an unfit mother.
Unable to work or be a mother, Lisa began questioning what her purpose in life was. At the end of 2007, five months post-stroke, she received a mailing from the American Stroke Association. “The flyer had info about training for a marathon,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I can do this.’ I read it again and thought ‘I’m doing this.’ My friends and family thought I was insane! I told them ‘I am walking for me and stroke survivors who can’t walk.’”
She joined the American Stroke Association’s Train To End Stroke (TTES) program. Training strengthened both her body and mind, and she walked her first half-marathon (13.1 miles) on February 1, 2009, in Huntington Beach. After that she completed 21 half-marathons, always coming in last.
When the American Stroke Association eliminated the TTES program, Lisa took on another challenge, public speaking despite aphasia. Sponsored as a “passion speaker” by the ASA, Lisa shares what it is like to live with a disability. “My life is full and my goals are simpler now,” she said. “I would love to hug my kids (now 18 and 19) with two hands, walk without a limp, wear high heels.
“My stroke taught me to look for the silver lining. As a result of my stroke, I lost weight, and then because of TTES, I gained muscle mass,” she said. “And I always get the best parking space!”
Lisa tells her audiences what her sister, Denise, a speech therapist, told her: “’Never give up! You have to fight for yourself. Nobody does it for you. Just you.’ I’ve learned to take charge of my life and my health,” Lisa said. “I consider myself lucky. I know from rehab it could be a lot worse.” Adapting to life with only one hand is an apt metaphor for how she navigates life after stroke, always improvising.
Her why? “I love encouraging stroke survivors plus I get to watch my kids grow up. My life is good.”
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