Sharing My WOW

Life-altering events force us to look back on our lives. That was especially true for me during the first four months after my hemorrhagic stroke in 2013 at age 44. My stroke was caused by high blood pressure and was even preceded by a TIA in 2009. Now I can see that family history was a contributing factor. Many family members had strokes, but I was too afraid to ask and face a scary truth. I even went off my blood pressure medication!

As a dancer with a master of fine arts degree, I’d always pushed myself to be the best, out in front, in the spotlight. That’s what dancing is all about. Early on I was very insecure, but very determined. I worked my way into the spotlight. Eventually, I started a dance festival in San Francisco in 1999, and continue to run it from my home in New York. I no longer dance because the stroke left me permanently disabled on my left side. Now my goal is to bring dancers together to have a positive, non-competitive experience.

The biggest beauty and blessing for me is that my lifelong career has been the key to my recovery. Knowing my body signals, my muscle structure and how the body moves, as well as organizing dance events has literally saved my body and brain. I have been bringing dancers together for 15 years through the Vision Series Dance Festival. The more I do, the better I get, each and every day!

Despite the disability, I have never been more confident in myself than now. Why? Because I am who I am, exactly as you see me, not trying to be something I’m not. I can’t! Even though I am not center stage, I now “dance” backstage as the dancers shine in the spotlight! It’s very exciting to watch! I am proud and honored. My unfortunate situation is a blessing, I am alive and thriving and will never give up. Why should I?

My insecure past has led me to a very secure present. That’s the way life goes, everything does happen for a reason!

I’ve learned some valuable lessons that have become my words of wisdom, my “WOW”:

  • Take action to live a healthier life before tragedy strikes. Learn your family history; don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors and your family.
  • Slow down and stop trying to be more than you are. Accept yourself, the stress to ‘be more’ can push us all too far, and it may take a toll on the body.
  • To overcome tragedy, keep living your dreams and doing what you enjoy. It makes a physical and emotional difference and it will also save your soul and your mind.
  • Most importantly, be a survivor and love yourself NOW, before it’s too late and you are forced to look back and wish you had done things differently.

Day to day we all have many priorities. But, if even for brief moments, slow down, close your eyes, breathe and smile. Make your body and emotional well-being your top priority! Trust me, your loved ones will understand and thank you for it!

I am proud to be a survivor!

DONNETTE HEATH | Survivor Tarrytown, New York

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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!