Five Out of Six Ain’t Bad

Survivor Kristin Price and her husband Mike

Early evening, New Years’ Eve 2018

While taking a shower I thought to myself, “2018 has been great. Actually, 2017 has been also. I sure hope 2019 is great, too. Could I be lucky enough to keep the streak alive?”

The answer was no.

Later that evening, I was sipping a beer, watching a movie with my husband. I reached for my beer with my left hand and missed. I remember thinking, “why is this hard?” So, I tried again, swinging my arm haphazardly toward the beer. Eventually, I used two hands to try to take a sip of it and either missed my mouth or somehow just dumped the can on myself.

My nose felt runny. I yelled to my husband in the kitchen to bring me a tissue. I was slurring. I hadn’t finished that one beer; I wasn’t drunk. I concentrated and tried to speak more clearly. I felt successful. My husband yelled back that there were tissues in front of me. I spotted them and tried, unsuccessfully, to blow my nose. Why were easy things suddenly hard? I’m not coordinated, but this was bad, even for me.

When my husband returned, he looked at me and rushed over. He was very serious, kept saying my name and asking what was wrong. I had no idea what he was talking about. He said he was going to call 911. I began to panic. I didn’t know why he would be calling 911 or what he saw that was wrong. I heard the dispatcher through his cell phone. He told her he believed I was having a stroke. She told him to have me say a phrase, lift my arms, etc. I did all of these enthusiastically, letting adrenaline take over. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the left side of my face had been completely drooped, I was drooling, and I had lost feeling in the left side of my body.

10:20 p.m., New Year’s Eve

The five paramedics surrounding my living room coffee table said I should go to the hospital for tests. I agreed to go despite feeling fine. I tried, unsuccessfully, not to cry while I got my shoes on and walked myself into the ambulance. I was scared.

The next four days unfolded like a fog. I felt fine; acted fine; and overcompensated to prove to everyone how fine I was. I was not fine. I was not in denial. I was simply unaware of what was happening.

January 1, 2019

I was informed that I’d suffered an ischemic stroke. I am 38 years old. I don’t smoke, have normal blood pressure, low cholesterol and no known risk factors for stroke. The only factor they could identify was the hormonal birth control pill; a seemingly innocuous solution that can be associated with a greater risk for blood clots. Part of my brain had died when the middle cerebral artery in the right side of my brain was 100% closed. There are six major arteries in the brain. Now, only five functioned.

Over the next two months, I worked my way through therapies to regain my cognitive stamina and certain physical abilities. After a few days of uncoordinated physical efforts, my balance and abilities came back quickly and on their own. My fine motor skills came back slower, but also on their own. I was lucky to have never lost any speech or communication abilities. I resumed volunteering at our elementary school just days after being discharged.

image of Survivor Kristin

As months passed, I realized that the tool I use to tell differences in my abilities or emotions — my brain — is the very thing that is broken. It is confusing to think I’m fine, that everything is normal, without the ability to realize it is not. When I couldn’t stabilize to walk in the hospital, I had no idea I was off balance. I didn’t know I was staggering around the hospital wing like a drunken sailor. People would ask me about things I’d do, “Would you normally have made that decision?” I think so, but, again, the tool I’d use to reason and recall that information is partially dead right now.

May 2019

Now nearly five months out from this event, I am close to 100% normal. The left side of my body still has sensation deficiencies and is painful every day. I usually use this pain to remind myself how lucky I am. I have seen a number of people die from ischemic stroke the last couple of months. I have no idea why I was so lucky and they were not. I have days and weeks where I feel suddenly very different. I act different, taste different or just behave in a way that’s odd for me. It is so difficult to reconcile this on my journey because changes come without notice and are often hard to detect.

The reality is, I am a different person. I feel like half of myself stitched to half of this new person. The original me, and this “survivor”; these two different people, unaware of each other, are living side-by-side. Most of the time, I’m the old me. But inside, I know I am different. My life will never be the same. As a stroke survivor, I have become used to the standard questions and tests the physicians conduct. Do I feel depressed? Can I feel this? Or that? Can I push down evenly on both sides? Smile — do I look symmetrical?

I make jokes. It is how I heal and try to ease the discomfort as someone tries to study me to see how different I am. The way stroke affected me, it’s hard to tell by looking or talking to me that I’m different at all. It’s easy to joke that I didn’t need six working arteries and feel much more efficient with only five. It’s easy to make people laugh as I ease the tension.

But being a stroke survivor, even one with few lasting effects and a good sense of humor, is incredibly difficult. I panic when I get a headache. I am terrified of changing medications. When I get upset, I wonder if my brain is changing or if this is normal. I say dumb things periodically. Dumber than before the stroke? I have no idea because my brain isn’t fully functional.

When I mess something up and say something stupid, I don’t want to “play the stroke card” but I don’t often know what the hell is happening. I recently overstepped in a fairly new friendship. I got inside my own head and didn’t act the way I normally would. I didn’t feel how I normally feel. And when I emerged from the fog, I wondered what the hell had happened. I couldn’t forgive myself and didn’t understand why I would act the way I had acted. I was afraid I had ruined a friendship and couldn’t seem to get out of my own way. These are small things in the grand scheme of many stroke survivors’ challenges to overcome, but they can be incredibly isolating. If I can’t always understand myself, how can I be close to anyone else?

image of Survivor Kristin and Mike

Being a stroke survivor at such a young age is not for the faint of heart. Literally or figuratively. I don’t know if there will be a happy ending for me. I only have five months of varying success and failures to measure. Something I tried to respect before I had a stroke was that I don’t know what I don’t know. Since having a stroke, this has never been more important. I don’t know what I don’t know. And that is ok.

My brain contains dead tissue. I only have five working arteries in my brain. But five out of six ain’t bad. I will take what I’ve got and I will continue to work with it for as many days as I have on this Earth. I owe this to my children and to my family. I will make inappropriate stroke jokes that help bring levity to such a difficult subject for me. I will continue to introspect on my journey and hope to find more stable footing as the years go by. The new me will be better than the old me. I wear my years and scars like badges. I will use this opportunity for a fresh start with the gift of still having so much of myself from before intact. I will not let “cryptogenic, ischemic stroke” define me. I will stay strong.

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.


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!