Gracie Doran's Why

Survivor Gracie Doran with her furry friend Cooper

Gracie Doran was enjoying a day surfing at the beach with her dad. She would soon be taking a trip to Hawaii and wanted to get in as much practice as she could. But something wasn’t right — as she got out of the water, she was limping a little and said she was really tired. Once home, she immediately went to bed, even though it was the middle of the afternoon.

When she hadn’t come down for dinner, her mother, Barbara, sent her sister to see if there was a problem. Rachel came back and said something was really wrong. They loaded Gracie into the car and took her to the hospital where they were told she had a bleed in her brain stem.

At 10 years old, Gracie was having a stroke.

The Dorans knew that Gracie had a congenital condition called cavernous hemangioma that caused malformed blood vessels in her brain. That condition had been discovered after a seizure at age 6. A cavernous hemangioma is a cluster of small, abnormally formed blood vessels that are enlarged and irregular in structure. These blood vessels have very thin walls and lack the elastic fibers present in larger vessels. As a result, they are prone to leakage, which can cause hemorrhagic strokes. Gracie’s doctors at the time were concerned about one of the malformations, but every doctor the Dorans consulted advised against trying to remove it.

“They said it would be more dangerous to go in and do anything about it than leaving it alone,” Barbara said. “So we just left it alone.”

But once it started bleeding, it could no longer be left alone, especially as Gracie’s condition was worsening. After emergency brain surgery, Gracie spent seven weeks in rehab relearning how to eat, speak and walk. Although she came home in a wheelchair, she not only walks, now she dances!

“Dance is my passion in life,” Gracie said.

Gracie had been a competitive dancer, and her dance team went out of their way to include her. In a number from “Little Shop of Horrors,” they created a plant on a rolling cart, and Gracie danced from the waist up.

Gracie’s right arm and hand remain paralyzed, but that has not kept her off the stage. Her dance instructor choreographed a lyrical dance to the Beatle’s song “Let It Be.”

The dance tells Gracie’s story. “It was choreographed to use her strengths but also it shows her weaknesses, too, because that’s part of the story,” Barbara said. The group running the competition where it was first performed was so moved that they filmed a short documentary. At that first performance, she received a standing ovation, and she continues to perform it. She also teaches a dance class for students with disabilities. “Dance really helped in rehabilitation,” she said. “So I like to help kids learn how to dance.”

“It makes me so happy when I share my story and I can see how it impacts people’s lives and how it moves them to donate to a cause or volunteer or be a better person in their community.”

She also speaks to school groups about bullying and acceptance during disability awareness events. And she is passionate about raising awareness of pediatric stroke. “I feel like I need to give back, and I want to educate others and spread awareness that kids can also have strokes.”

She has spoken at Heart Balls and luncheons with the American Stroke Association, as well as at Jump Rope for Heart events at schools and at a Go Red For Women fashion show.

“It makes me so happy when I share my story and I can see how it impacts people’s lives and how it moves them to donate to a cause or volunteer or be a better person in their community,” she said. “Inspiration is one of the most powerful things in the world. I love that I am able to move people and that they are able to look up to me as a role model in their community.”

Gracie feels like the stroke and her recovery was a turning point. “It’s made me a better person and made me know that I’m stronger than I think I am,” she said. “I can do many more things, like inspire others with my life. My future is my why.”

Everyone has a reason to live a longer and healthier life.



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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

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Simple Cooking

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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!