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Andrea’s story — stroke after pregnancy

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Andrea’s story begins three weeks before her due date; she had been going to regular check ups due to increased high blood pressure her doctor was concerned about. On April 3rd, Andrea and her husband welcomed a healthy baby girl into their lives.

A few days after going home, Andrea woke up with a migraine — a usual thing for her. She took some medicine and went back to sleep to see if it would make the headache better. After a few hours her headache had gotten worse, so her husband decided to drive her to the nearest urgent care center. They live two hours away from Seattle, WA, so the nearest urgent care was a half-hour ride away. 

“On the way there I remember asking my husband over and over again “How much longer? Are we there yet? My headache was getting worse and at one point I remember letting out a painful scream… this is where things start to get blurry.”

At the urgent care center, Andrea was trying to communicate but not making sense, vomiting and disoriented. By the time the doctors got her inside she was unconscious. The doctors called 911 to get her transported to the nearest hospital where she could get a CT scan and appropriate care. Andrea’s husband went with her to the hospital — the CT scan revealed a life-threatening brain bleed that needed immediate surgery, but the surgery couldn’t happen at that hospital. Andrea was transported again to a different hospital.

The doctor that operated on Andrea told her husband the surgery went well but the next 48 hours were critical — all they could do now was wait until she woke up. 48 hours go by, Andrea is still alive but unconscious. It took her 12 days to wake up. 

“When I woke up my legs weren’t moving, so the doctors didn’t think I would be able to walk again. I also had trouble speaking, couldn’t read or write. I went into in-patient rehabilitation almost immediately.”

Recovering from a stroke is a difficult process, but Andrea had to go at it alone at the in-patient facility. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, her husband could not be in there with her. The incredible people at the rehab center had her walking on day TWO of her 30 day stay. They set up a video call on that day, with Andrea’s husband, and everyone shed tears of pure joy when they saw her walking. After those 30 days, Andrea was transferred to another rehabilitation facility closer to her hometown.

Now that she went home, a new challenge waited for her — her baby girl. 

“ I felt very ready to be a mom before the stroke. But when I got back home after rehabilitation I lost a bit of confidence and doubted myself. My husband stayed at home for another month before going back to work, so that really helped.”

Andrea’s in-laws also live close by, so they were able to help when she needed and give her the time to work on recovering from a major stroke.

Today, 11 months after her stroke, Andrea still struggles with reading, writing and speaking, as well as a vision deficit in her right eye. For a while she felt very depressed and alone, couldn’t speak to anyone so she started going on walks with her daughter to get her strength back. When she felt strong enough, she started running. Her PTs and OTs were pleasantly surprised when seeing Andreas progress.

In October 2020, she told her husband “I want to run a 5k” — so they signed up to the American Heart Association’s virtual 5k and trained for it. On the day, in the pouring rain, Andrea and her husband ran 5k and celebrated her recovery.

Her stroke story has impacted many; she became an Ambassador for the American Heart Association and has done TV interviews for local stations. Andrea has taken up social media to connect with other stroke survivors, talk about the good and the bad, keep each other motivated during the recovery process. 

My husband is the best thing ever, and I thank him so much for sticking with me through this. He is my rock. But I find such a special connection with stroke survivors. There are things that only those who go through this can understand, and it really helps to have someone that understands that part of your life.

Andrea is committed to raising awareness of stroke in women by sharing her story. “My goal is to spread the message and share my story — this happens to so many women, and it can be prevented.Take care of yourself and be aware of the signs of stroke.” 

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