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A Patient's Story

I am the mother of a very smart, funny and beautiful seven year old daughter, named Hunter. I am also the daughter of a beautiful, smart and funny woman, my mom, Toni. These two ladies are the loves of my life. I credit them with giving me the strength needed to survive. Less than two years ago, we moved to Arizona so I could work for Honeywell Aerospace as the Director of Global Communications for the Commercial sector.

On July 8, 2013, I awoke at 3 a.m. because of a loud pop and severe head pain. Two ambulance rides and one helicopter flight later, I arrived at St. Joseph's. This was the third hospital in the Valley where I was seen in that 24 hours. The pain was excruciating; the prognosis dire. I had a brain aneurysm and while at the first hospital, while they were scanning my stomach (yes, I said stomach, not head), I suffered a series of strokes. Thankfully, I made it here to St. Joseph's Barrow Neurological Institute. On July 15, two days before my 42nd birthday, I was stable enough to undergo surgery. From what I have been told, they advised my Mom to bring my daughter in and say goodbye. So, the fact that I survived is a miracle. I attribute my survival to three key groups - remarkable medical care, my family, and the extraordinary rehabilitation team with whom I had the great fortune of working.

The Rehab team is extensive; all areas of which are critical components to recovery. However, for me, certain practices and individuals became like family. From LuAnn, who took the time upon my arrival to meet with my Mom and understand my personality and needs. She treated me like an individual, not a patient number and that made a huge impact. To Andrea and Adam in Physical Therapy, who taught me how to stand and walk and joked with me (helping me find humor in the days that weren’t very funny). To Stephanie in Occupational Therapy, who taught me how to get back to the tasks of life - with one hand, while talking like old girlfriends about her upcoming wedding. To Jana in Speech Therapy, who literally helped me find my voice and taught me how to swallow so I could once again enjoy chocolate.

I spent eight weeks at St. Joseph's Barrow; five of those were on the second floor in rehab. From the time I could communicate, I have joked “Brain intact, body not so much.” I realized the rehab team had their work cut out for them, as did I. For someone who is used to a demanding job and 60+ hour work weeks, the days in rehab were both physically demanding and emotionally exhausting. Coupled with the fact that I was missing my family, and a myriad of other factors - being cheerful was sometimes difficult. So working with positive people made an enormous impact on my disposition. When each therapy team asked me my goal, my response was consistent - “to get back to normal.” They understood my intention, and helped me define more specific milestones towards “normal.” So I was able to see success and maintain a positive outlook. Still even today, I’m thinking about the end goal and they are seeing the progress that has been made. This team became my family, my support system. They safely guided me and often times pushed me beyond my comfort zone because they recognized when I was hesitating or holding back. And when I was ready and needed to push myself, they added sessions to the schedule and gave me homework. We were a team, working together in my rehabilitation. Their compassion was matched by their determination and encouragement to get me back to my daughter and mom and the life we knew before. Not only did they give me an opportunity to regain my independence, they gave me hope for my future.

I have experienced two miracles in my life – the day my daughter was born and surviving this. I owe the team so much. I am alive, I am getting stronger and I am raising my daughter. I am so grateful to them, for their professionalism, support and friendship.