Stroke Life Society

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Judy Simon's Story

(Stroke Survivor)



It was a beautiful Sunday.  We had our church picnic that morning.  I took the dogs to the park as I would have done on that Sunday.  While I was walking the dogs I figured that I would clean the car and the carport.  So I had my day all planned out.


I changed into a pair of shorts and an old t-top.  About 5:00 I thought that I’ll move the station wagon and then the Nissan in the driveway.  I moved the station wagon.  For some reason I backed up into the side of the garage.  I never heard it hit the garage.  It bothered me that I would do something like that.  But I didn’t let it bother me.  I went into the house for a drink.  I only had some water and some soda in the garage.  There was some beer in the bottom of the refrigerator so I decided I’ll have that.  I had some of the beer and went outside to finish the Nissan.  The car was finished and my chores were done.  I couldn’t get over the fact that I had hit the side of the garage.  Mary and John had just come down with their two dogs.  I told them what I’d done with the car.  Oh well I thought, what’s done is done.


I went into the house for another sip of beer.  It really gave me a punch.  The room was starting to sway and I couldn’t stay up.  Oh God, what was happening to me?  I tried to get to the phone, but it was too high on the wall.  I crawled to the living room to get the phone on the table.  Finally I could reach the phone.  I started to dial but I couldn’t get the phone to work.


What the hell was the matter now?  It was 7:00 or 7:30.  Little did I realize that I had a stroke.  The phone DID work.  My ability to crawl was getting harder to do.  I remember getting to the front door and trying to sit up.  It was hard to do but I finally held on to the screen door handle.  My next step was even harder to do.  How was I going to get out the door?  Then, how was I going to get down the concrete steps?  I don’t remember getting down or falling from the steps.


When I got to the grass, I recall that it was easier to crawl.  And that was what I did.  I crawled until I got to the ditch.  Somehow I got up that slope.  And for the next forty feet I managed to move myself ever so closer to my girlfriend’s house.


I was on the other side of the street.  I remember seeing a car come down the street but they could not see me.  I must have looked like a pile of rags.  It took some time but I decided to get over to the right side of the street.  I was really feeling tired and the night air was cold.  I couldn’t keep crawling on my front side and so I had to get on my back.  It didn’t hurt so bad or maybe I just didn’t feel it.


I kept thinking if I could only get to Mary’s house, she would hear me screaming.  Again I didn’t know that my speech was so garbled.  And I was getting tired.  I remember thinking that I was going to scream one last time before I would stop for a while.  I didn’t know how long I was able to take the cold.  I said if I don’t get Mary’s attention I would quit,,,,,


A car came down the road and hesitated; and went a little further and came to where I was in the street.  “Help me.  Please help me.”  Someone got out of the car and took my hand.  She dialed for help on her cell phone.


Three hours after I began my search for someone to help me, I began my life as a stroke victim.


I am a stroke victim.


I remember when they got me into the ambulance, and I think I remember when they air lifted me to Pitt Memorial Hospital.  I don’t remember the next few days, but I was told that they needed to put me out.  My life as I woke up was very happy.  I really knew who I was.  I remember talking, as if it was the right way to speak.  But I didn’t speak very well at all.  Garbage came out of my mouth.  I realized that I had no way to say anything.  I think now that my speech, as with all stroke victims, was not perfectly good.  I never knew that I couldn’t say what I wanted.  My thoughts were coming out perfect as I said them.  But not one word was coming out like it should have.  It took me two or three weeks before I realized I had a speech problem.  I had a hemorrhagic stroke.  The fatality rate is higher and overall the outcome is worse.  It’s unusual for a younger person to get them and symptoms are very quick to happen.   My ability to write was difficult as I was right handed.  We used a chalk board in order to speak some words to get my point across.  My right side was completely immobilized.  My leg and foot were so bad that I could only lie in bed.  But what did I care, I was on drugs and I was as happy as could be.


In the beginning I had speech, occupational and physical therapy.  Again, I had very little idea how my words came out of my mouth.  My teacher was kind and spent her extra hours with me.  Now after two years it was apparent how little I could say things properly.  I still find saying things difficult.


I had very sweet trainers for both occupational and physical therapy.  I would learn to do the occupational tasks every week.  The fear that I had at first was enormous.   Trying to take a few baby steps at each session was so difficult.   I remember trying to swallow.  I had to take an extra gulp to get it to work.  Finally it did happen.  When it occurred I don’t know, but it happened.  It was a few months later I can remember not having to try to swallow.  My occupational trainer was a young lady who showed me how to shower and brush my teeth, the little things to take care of myself.  My physical trainer was a young dad who had a hearing disability.  I took my first steps with him and learned how to walk the half mile with happiness.  He had a heart of gold. 


When we got home to NY I began my sessions for physical and occupational therapy.  At first they came to my home where they would see me.  There were 12 weeks of classes.  As usual, I tried hard.  We performed special things to go forward in the class like learning how to get up from your chair.  We learned how to take the bad leg and lift it up.  This took a few weeks.  During this time I also used a wheelchair.  I learned to put on my clothes each morning and to take them off each night.  This was done with one hand.  I also had a nurse to come in to take care of the meals and to do light cleaning.  These chores took a lot of energy out of my body. 


Eventually I would start my sessions outside of the house.  It was weeks for me to get walking down pat.  The neighbors would talk about me and the way I made an effort to keep walking.  I walk my daily routine of ½ mile a day; sometimes more sometimes less.  Lately, I am trying to lift my leg for a better way to walk.  For the last year and a half I have progressed to where I am today.  In order for me to get better with my occupational training, I would pick up little toys.  I had about 10 items and I would pick them up about twice.  There were several ways for me to get my arm to life more weights.  I had a two pound weight which I would take out of the drawer.  Sounds easy, but not with a hand that is paralyzed.  Little by little I would take the weight from the drawer.  I still have trouble doing that.  I lift that weight 4, 5 or maybe 6 times.  I can remember not being able to lift it at all.  But that also will come some year.


Lately, I have been taking Botox shots.  As with all therapy, this too is slow.  But maybe I was meant to go slow.  Maybe I was to go slow so I can stop and think a while.  In one of the Botox sessions while I waited for the doctor to fill the needles, I thought this is a perfect time to think things out.  As he started to give me the first few shots my mind could not think of anything but those shots.  The pain was something unbelievable.  I kept on thinking that if this is what it’s like to take the shots, I’ll do it for as long as I can stand it.  When the session was finished and we were on our way home, I once again thought how easy it was to go slow.  To get the shot and to go slowly.


Everything is meant for me to go slowly.  We all rush around and go so fast.  They laugh at the way I talk, especially since I come from the south.  I walk slow.  I think a lot slower too.  I am going down south.  My daughter feels with some help I should be able to make it on my own.  So again I am going to try my best.   Afraid.  Scared.  Nervous.  All of these things.  But I’m going to take time to smell the flowers.


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