The Story of a Stroke Survivor

By Jan Healy

The Story of a Stroke Survivor

On August 5th, 2009, my life turned upside down. My husband and I were chatting in bed, before we were about to go to sleep. I found that I was talking to myself as Brian seemed to be in a deep sleep. I shook him, and said, “If you are about to go to sleep then get up and brush your teeth.” He got out of bed and walked towards the bathroom. I said something to him, and when he responded his words came out strangely. I then saw his leg give out on him. I turned on the light and saw that the left side of his mouth was drooping. I let out a scream, and said, “You are having a stroke!” He replied, “No I am not. I just need help going to the bathroom.”

For just a second I thought that maybe he knew something I didn’t know, but that was for only a second. Brian fell face forward on the bed, I picked up my cell phone, and against Brian’s wishes I called 911. I could not believe this horror was actually happening right before my eyes. Brian was only 49 years old. He was extremely athletic and very healthy. I could not imagine the possibility of losing him; I knew this was very serious. Moments later I heard the sirens and knew the ambulance was on its way.

I had to run down the stairs to let the paramedics in the door. I kept yelling, “Brian, keep your eyes open, talk to me.” I felt that if he closed his eyes it would be the end. The paramedics came running up the stairs. They hooked Brian up to an IV and put him on a gurney. I was so relieved to hand Brian over to the professionals; I was in total shock, but at least I had my wits about me enough to make that crucial call. Brian is 6’5”, and the paramedics had a difficult time getting him down the stairs. The gurney kept hitting the walls. The paramedics seemed to be panicking, which made me all that more frightened.

Finally, we were on our way to the hospital. When we arrived, Brian was taken to get a CT scan. When the doctor returned, he called me over to the computer and showed me a picture of Brian’s brain. His voice was very somber as he pointed out a large white area which was a bleed. Brian had a hemorrhagic stroke. It was deep in the center of his brain. Since it was late at night nothing could be done until the morning. A neurologist and a neurosurgeon were notified. He was put on anti-bleeding and anti-swelling medication. Now I would have to wait.

Sitting in the cold hospital room, I thought I would go out of my mind. This was completely surreal. I went into a computer room and looked up everything I could about hemorrhagic strokes. What I read was very bleak. Most people do not survive the first three days. If Brian did survive however, his chances for recovery were high. I could only pray that he would make it; there was no other option.

The night dragged on and on. In the morning the neurosurgeon came to tell me that surgery was impossible since the bleed was so deep inside the brain. He also said that if Brian did survive, he would easily have six months to a year of rehabilitation ahead of him. I was completely hysterical.

Brian opened his eyes. He could hardly speak, but at least he was conscious. He remained in ICU for three days. He was moved out of ICU on the fourth day. Another CT scan told us that the bleeding had stopped. Now therapy would begin. A few days later Brian was moved to the Acute Therapy floor. It was so hard to watch my big, strong husband struggle to do the simplest things. After 17 of the worst days of my life, Brian was being sent home. He would continue his therapy at a rehabilitation center, and I would be taking on the role of caregiver.

During the seven months of therapy that followed, I slowly watched Brian come back to me. His amazing attitude and hard work inspired me. In order for me to heal from this traumatic experience, I decided to write a book about our journey. While Brian was working hard at the rehab center, I would write for hours everyday.

With the book completed and published, we could now share our story of hope and encouragement with other stroke survivors and their caregivers. It has helped us understand why this happened to us. If one life is saved because of our story, then all that we have been through will have meaning!

About this writer

  • Jan Healy Jan Healy has a Master’s Degree in English and has been an educator for the last twenty years as an English teacher and counselor. She and her husband published a book this June called Navigating through the Fog: The Story of a Stroke Survivor and the Woman who Loves Him. There have been several newspaper articles and radio interviews about their miracle story.

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4 Responses to “The Story of a Stroke Survivor”

  1. Maria Aeberhard says:

    Way to go Jan! What a story, and it’s very well told! Congratulations!

  2. Beth Stewart says:

    What a tremendously inspiring and helpful story. I thoroughly appreciate it! Beth Stewart

  3. Hi Jan, came across your post today. I would like to commend you and thank you for sharing your husband’s inspiring story. I know by now, you husband as improved a lot. Please continue to inspire and empower stroke patient and survivors through your posts.  And just like you, I want to inspire and touch people’s lives and I want to take this opportunity to share to you TAKE A BOW – A full-length documentary about a beloved and highly respected piano professor Ingrid Clarfield who suffered a severe stroke at age 60.  Ingrid takes us on a remarkable journey from physical adversity and emotional struggle to victory of the human spirit and the desire to make a difference.  You can check her website: Hoping that you can also feature her story in one of your blogs to spread the message and inspire others.  God bless. :)

  4. sebouh kandilian says:

    HI Jan,
    My life also turned upside down at age of 22 in 1999. I came home one night from a stressful school day and I had the facial numbing and speech issues and I went to the er of mass general in Boston with my family. The hemorrhage was a result of my benign brainstem tumor that was partially removed first at age seven. They believe the radiation therapy in some pediatric cases weaken the vessels which leads to a hemorrhage. Ive had surgeries in college for hydrocephalus a cyst a hematoma. When I was in optometry school I had the bleed and that is when doctors had to remove the tumor which was mostly cerebellar and some stem. Now i have acquired ataxia which is balance impairments, double vision, ringing in ear, hearing loss, right facial paralysis where i can’t chew on side, headaches, fatigue energy loss too. Life is no longer the same but I make the best of it. I still have trouble myself getting back to life. It is not easy. I appreciate if anyone wants to give me suggestions. I am now 40 and live in Boston ma .

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