Uncommon Survivors

This companion piece to Uncommon Causes profiles several survivors who experienced strokes due to less common causes.

Over the years,we have published many stories about survivors who have had strokes caused by dissections, AVMs and cavernous angiomas. Here are updates to a few of those stories. For even more stories,visit StrokeAssociation.org/uncommonsurvivors


Sarah Teague of Churubusco, Indiana was 29 when she had an arterial dissection in 2008 as the result of a chiropractic adjustment. Married 10 years, she was the mother of then 6-year-old twin sons. Her stroke left her with vision problems, left-side numbness and central pain. The dizziness and vision problems made it impossible for her to play with her sons, and the nerve pain took a daily toll.

When we talked with her recently, she was still dealing with those issues, taking a daily aspirin and checking in with her neurologist once a year. Although she takes pain medication, she says the best solution to the pain is to stay busy and distracted. “Being young (she is 35) and looking fine on the outside, people tend to forget what you’ve been through and what you’re going through,” she said. “But we’ve all adjusted. This is the new normal.”

Read more of  Sarah’s story in  Stroke Before 50 in our September/October 2010 issue.


Elizabeth Ludwick of Valencia, Cal. was a 36-year-old wife and new mother when she started having dizzy spells and vision problems. At first she thought they were related to having a new baby and not getting enough sleep. “But the dizzy spells and vision problems persisted after I got enough sleep,” she said. She went to several doctors, who all pronounced her healthy. “One doctor told me it was all in my head, and he was right, sort of,” she wrote in our January/February 2012 issue.

An MRI six months after giving birth revealed a 2 centimeter cavernous angioma deep in the right side of her brain. “They said I better never need surgery because the CA was very difficult to reach,” she wrote. “They also said watching and waiting was the only thing we could do, since surgery was the only treatment for CA.” She watched and waited for 18 months, during which the CA doubled in size. She decided watching and waiting was a bad gamble and opted for surgery. During surgery, she had a stroke and was paralyzed on her left side. “My family was devastated, but I felt it was only temporary, and it was for the most part,” she wrote. She met and exceeded her therapy goals and started a blog (thankfulforeveryday.blogspot.com) to help others dealing with this situation.

When we contacted her for an update, she had big news: “I was medically cleared for another pregnancy and am due to have our second baby any day, almost exactly three years from my surgery/stroke. Although I am not 100 percent recovered, I am thankful for how much I have improved. Surgery still is the only treatment for CA, although there are plans to begin clinical trials for possible medications that could prevent bleeds.”

Read Elizabeth’s full story in our January/February 2012 issue.


Gary Drach of San Carlos, Cal. knew from age 13 that he had an AVM but didn’t tell even his closest friends for fear of how they might respond. “My logic was that I was living on borrowed time,” he said in a May/June 2010 article. “After all, I was only 13. I planned to live into my 30s.”

Then in 2000, at age 47, he woke up with a terrible headache. “I knew I was in trouble when my speech slurred and my right arm went numb.” At the ER, he heard his wife Peggy, a nurse, tell the staff that he was having a stroke. That night the doctors told her to prepare for the worst. Over the next few months, he had two surgeries to cauterize the AVM and a third to remove it, followed by two months in the hospital and five years of rehab. “I had a three-word vocabulary — yes, no and ‘peekles.’” Over 18 months, he learned to walk again with an AFO, regained his driver’s license and got some speech back. In August 2009, he got a service dog named Donald, and his self-confidence improved to the point that he began volunteering in the rehab unit at the hospital where he had once been a patient.

When we contacted him in December for an update, he and Peggy had recently spent three weeks in Paris: “A flat city, my walking paradise, and the people are very courteous, or do you think the cane had something to do with it? I left Donald at home, but I will take him when I return. We’ve made several road trips and flew with Donald to Seattle — he’s a natural! Unfortunately, the rehab hospital where I volunteered has closed. In the past 13 years I have learned to cook. Peggy is thrilled to come home from work and find the wash is handled, the dogs are brushed and walked, grocery shopping is done, and dinner is ready.”

Read Gary’s full story in our May/June 2010 issue.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. These tips, products or resources have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.

Stroke Connection. Get the app for free.


- Advertisement -

This link is provided for convenience only and is not an endorsement or recommendation of either the linked-to entity or any product or service.

AD. Amramp Making Life Accessible. 20 years. Be accessible to everyone. Protect your clients & their caregivers from slip and fall accidents. 888-715-7599. Click here for more info.

AD: American Stroke Association-American Heart Association logo. Did you know that about 1 in 4 stroke survivors have a second stroke? Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association logo. American Diabetes Associaiton logo. Know diabetes by heart logo. Living with diabetes? Inspire others. Submit story button.


AD. American Heart Association logo. Know your blood pressure numbers. And what they mean. Gain Control.  Learn more.


Ad: American Heart Association Support Network. Facing recovery after a stroke or heart disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. You are not alone. Our community is here for you. Join us today. heart.org/SupportNetwork.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags


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!