No Coincidence

Survivor Sarah Conaway and her daughter Alexis

February 6, 2016, changed my life forever. My 3-year-old daughter, Alexis, had been up all night crying because of a terrible ear ache. Daniel, my husband, was out of town to attend his grandfather’s funeral, so I was single parenting. Finally, around 3 a.m., I decided to take her to the emergency room. My mom offered to go with us, which seemed unnecessary, but would prove to be such a blessing.

As we arrived and sat down in the waiting room, I began to fill out the admissions paperwork and suddenly lost feeling on the right side of my body. It was a strange sensation because I knew that part of my body existed, but it was completely numb, and I couldn’t move it. It wasn’t until noon the next day that the CT scan showed I had a stroke. I was in the right place at the right time.

The next three days are a blur with snippets of memory: my name misspelled on my wristband; the look of fear in my husband’s eyes; the look of desperation on my mother’s face; church friends showing up to take care of Alexis; my mother urging the doctors to do more testing because I was getting worse instead of better. She knew something more serious was wrong. Moms know these things.

This was a scary time for my husband. He had to continue working full time, be a single parent, and a caregiver to his wife. He went into survival mode. He began planning for the worst. He found the living will, the disability insurance information and the life insurance policy. I had just become eligible for my short-term disability and had a long-term disability policy that would kick in when the short-term expired. These policies made it possible to keep living in our home. It didn’t feel like coincidence that they’d newly become effective.

Rehabbing post-stroke was the hardest thing that I have ever done. At 34 I was re-learning to put one foot in front of the other. Learning how to function with roughly half my vision. Learning how to talk without stuttering over every. single. word. Learning how to use my right arm when it is completely limp and useless.

My neurologist told my family that a brain bleed where mine occurred is rare and someday I would walk into his office and shake his hand. I remember, six months later, doing exactly that.

I have come so far. I am forever indebted to the doctors, therapists, nurses and staff members who have helped me reach independence. Twenty months later, I have roughly 50 percent vision, aphasia, short-term memory loss, apraxia and hemiparesis, but I am ALIVE!

I always tell people that I’m like a cat because I have multiple lives. I’ve already spent three of them due to life-threatening illnesses. Multiple times a day I catch myself thinking “This is God.” And now instead of letting the busyness of everyday life distract me from those feelings, I try to stop, listen, and be present in what God is saying. I look back on life prior to my strokes and am sad at how many of these moments I let pass because of something else that I let take priority in my life. My work, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, etc., were all things that I truly felt should be on the top of my to-do list.

It is no coincidence that we were in the hospital when I had my first stroke. It is no coincidence that my daughter had been crying long enough for me to take us to the emergency room in the middle of the night. It is no coincidence that she was healthy after we arrived at the hospital and did not have an ear infection. It is no coincidence. It is God.

SARAH CONAWAY | Survivor Omaha, Nebraska

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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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.

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.

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

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 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.

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.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

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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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.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

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!