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“I’m DETERMINED to relearn to walk, bike, and enjoy life and get to see my kids grow up.”

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By Jennifer Holmstoen Lee

On March 28, 2016, I suffered a stroke. I was forty and perfectly healthy; I worked out every day, ate right, and thought I had no reason for this to happen.

I learned I had a vertebral artery dissection, or a tear of my artery thought to be caused by a chiropractic adjustment. I had visited the chiropractor a few weeks earlier and then started getting strange migraines. The day of my stroke I had been biking and got the same headache and felt ill. I went home and upon cracking my neck I immediately had numbing on my left side, and my face and eye drooped. My speech slurred while calling 911. My twelve-year-old daughter watched the whole thing, and both my kids saw me leave in an ambulance.

Because of my age, doctors thought I was just having a migraine, but two days later, when my symptoms did not improve, they found the stroke. I was in the hospital for a week and a half with vertigo and double vision and in a care facility for more than two weeks more, the longest I have ever been away from my family.

I am lucky to have survived. I want people to know this can happen; I wish I had known.

Stroke from a chiropractic adjustment does happen; some people die, some are significantly disabled. I am lucky to have survived. I want people to know this can happen; I wish I had known.

I’m DETERMINED to relearn to walk, bike, and enjoy life and get to see my kids grow up. I have a new appreciation for the elderly and those who are in care facilities waiting to die. I see people with disabilities as human and say hello and talk to them like people.

My stroke has taught me to be a better, more empathetic person, to enjoy the present moment and appreciate all that I have. My story is not over yet. I am currently working through depression and grief for my "old self." I am learning to accept letting my "old self" go and finding the new me. The word "normal" among stroke survivors implies prestroke, and it is not a word any of us like. When people say I look "normal," I take offense because many of my challenges are now invisible, and to say that I look normal denies what I have been through. Stroke did not just affect me, it impacted my whole family.

Health, Illness & Injury Building resilience Physical illness Post-traumatic growth
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