The Bonus Years



Bob, my husband of 45 years, and I have changed our mantra of CBW (“Could be worse”) to CBB (“Couldn’t be better”) because now we count every year since my stroke as a bonus. The idea of calling every year I have survived a bonus year was suggested by an article in Stroke Connection.

In 2003, I was talking to a student from my Spanish literature class in my office at Plymouth State College when I suddenly lost all use of my left side. I guess I was able to tell her to call 911 because I was medivacked from our local hospital to Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire. That was in February; I woke up in May. I had had a hemorrhagic stroke caused by an AVM that no one knew I had since I had had no symptoms.

I can still remember the first two things Bob said to me: that Plymouth State College was now a university; and that the rock formation called “The Old Man of the Mountain” had fallen off the cliff where he had been for millions of years before becoming our state emblem. I don’t know if there was a cause and effect relationship going on there, but it was a shock.

Survivor Virginia Garlitz with her husband, Bob; above: with granddaughter Emma

After spending time in various rehab centers regaining strength, I was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where the surgeon removed my AVM, replaced the bone flap that had been removed to accommodate the swelling of my brain and placed the shunt that helps circulate my brain fluid.

When I cried that I had lost my life, Bob said, “We may not have the same life, but together we will make a new one.” That assurance, and all the strength and love that came with it, made it possible for me to go on.

Now, almost 14 years later, after many hours with therapists and caregivers, I can walk with an AFO (ankle foot orthotic, a brace for the ankle and foot) on my left leg and the support of a cane or a grocery cart or my husband’s arm.

We have continued to travel, to spend time with our son and our two grandchildren in Paris. I try to put 6,000 steps a day on my pedometer, and I swim with a snorkel mask and flippers at least twice a week. I play the piano with my right hand while my friend plays the left hand part. Life is good; I am so lucky to have it. Every year is yet one more bonus. I look forward to many more.

Virginia Garlitz | Survivor

Plymouth, New Hampshire

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to 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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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!