In fall of 2014, I was a senior, excited about finishing high school in New Hampshire and heading off to college. But I could never have guessed what the year would bring. I was an avid lacrosse player and competing in my fifth game of a tournament when I started to notice I was having trouble seeing out of my left eye. Soon, my hand felt weird and I couldn’t grip the stick properly. As I sat on the sidelines, onlookers recommended I be taken to a local hospital.
Recovering from stroke
I can’t remember a lot of what happened next, but I know that the emergency doctors believed I had a stroke. They sent me to the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center at Boston Children’s Hospital because it was better equipped to care for kids and teenagers. As you can imagine, it was pretty scary to realize that I’d had a stroke, but everyone at Boston Children’s was so comforting. They knew how to make me feel calm.
After about five or six days, I was able to go home. Because the stroke affected the right side of a part of my brain called the thalamus and posterior limb of the internal capsule, I had difficulty moving my left arm and leg. I had to learn how to walk again and how to feed myself. The hardest thing to relearn was how to swallow, but I was able to do it. My physical and occupational therapists also gave me exercises to do at home. My mom, grandmother, and brother did them with me, which made it easier.
Looking to the future
Although I missed a lot of school that year, I was able to graduate on time. My teachers were flexible and supportive. I was even able to keep practicing lacrosse, which I think helped with my recovery. The next fall, I started college at the University of Vermont, where I’m majoring in medical laboratory science. I may decide to do research and get my PhD, or I might become a physician assistant — I haven’t decided yet.
By now, I’ve regained most of my function and the doctors say it’s just a matter of time until I regain more. I still get frustrated sometimes, like when I have to type up a paper, but overall, I’ve made a lot of progress and I try to push through. My new friends can’t usually tell that I’ve had a stroke.
Better for it
The doctors have never figured out why I had a stroke, but I’ve been told that something like a third of all pediatric strokes have no known cause. Right now, I only take a baby aspirin, and I’ll be meeting with Dr. Cameron Trenor next year to assess whether I still need it. I also see Dr. Laura Lehman every year, just to check in. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the stroke happened, so my appointments with her are good reminders to keep taking care of myself.
I would tell other kids who have had a stroke not to stress out. I got really anxious because I couldn’t fill out my early acceptance forms for college, and in retrospect I think that stress delayed my progress. Try to take care of yourself and take the time you need to recover. It also helps to have a positive attitude. I hated it at the time, but this experience has made me a stronger person and I appreciate life more now. It sounds weird, but I’m better for it.
Learn about the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center