In July 28, 2000, I lost myself after suffering a massive brainstem stroke at age 37. I passed out in my apartment in Atlanta, and subsequently called 911 and told the operator that I was dying. In fact, I did die in the ambulance. I had emergency brain surgery, was admitted to the ICU, and ultimately spent several months in rehab to relearn every function that I had once done without thought.
The following months were pivotal to my recovery. After being weaned off a breathing machine, living through a second surgery to insert a shunt in my brain, and going through intense physical, occupational and cognitive rehabilitation, I was released from rehab an unemployed, disabled and broken individual who was forced into early retirement.
I started my journey looking similar to how I looked prior to the stroke but certainly not feeling the same. My injuries were internal. In a period of 24 hours, I went from being an executive vice president of a national not-for-profit fundraising company to an unemployed housewife. The friends I had prior to the stroke forgot why we became friends. As a survivor, the world looked different to me.
Then and now 15 years later, I struggle to find myself. The person I was prior to the stroke was a frequent flier, traveled all around the country, was adventurous and pretty fearless. After the stroke, I was afraid of flying, not interested in traveling and questioned things that once gave me pleasure. On a positive note, the inability to maintain a full-time job has allowed me the time to garden and cook — two things I always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time. Miracles do happen.
JENNIFER WHITE | Survivor