Pat’s journey with her brain injury began in 2001. After suffering from a sudden debilitating headache, she went to the hospital where doctors told her she had a leaking aneurysm. Blood was slowly seeping into Pat’s brain, and she was at risk of dying. The news left her devastated, but determined to begin her long, uphill battle towards recovery.
Pat remained in the hospital for five weeks while undergoing several brain surgeries and treatments. Her stroke left her with weakness on her left side, an attention deficit disorder, and a mood disorder with depression that would be diagnosed two years later.
After returning home, Pat struggled to adjust to her life with a brain injury. She had to undergo multiple types of therapy to help her body and mind adjust to “the new Pat.” Through her occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and counseling, Pat began to get better. She learned to drive again and tried to return to her job as a preschool special education teacher, but found it to be too difficult since her brain injury affected her thinking and focusing. Changes after her injury also created tension between her and her husband, which ultimately led to their divorce.
“People often ask me how I could do this, meaning going through recovery after my stroke,” says Pat. “My answer is always this – how could I not! I mean considering the alternative, giving up is not an option!”
Despite the dissolution of her marriage, Pat continued on her journey towards recovery. While she was making progress on her own, she realized she needed more support and assistance from those who were facing similar challenges. Her counselor suggested she contact the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI). She found her local support group and went to her first meeting, where she finally found what she had been seeking.
“At my first meeting, I felt like I’d come home,” explains Pat. “These were people who understood the new me.”
Pat made fast friends within the support group. They continue to provide each other with not just emotional support, but help with day to day errands as well.
“Because of my injury, I became single, had to retire and live by myself,” says Pat. “But, I’ve learned to accept the fact that life with an invisible injury has its challenges. I’ve actually found blessings in my injury, and it’s much easier to face with your support group behind you.”
As a result, Pat now faces each day with positivity and a new lease on life. She participates in panel presentations to different organizations through the Disability Network Southwest Michigan , so that others can understand brain injuries and the challenges that survivors face. Although her life has changed since her brain injury, she has made the most of it.
“I’ve learned that I can’t take my life for granted,” explains Pat. “Each day is a gift.”