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An Unbelievable Stroke

Tracey Russell

When I think about what happened to me, it's hard for me to really believe everything that actually occurred. I am very grateful to my mother and my daughter who have done everything to help me and I thank God who saved me and continues to help me with my life.

In August of 2005 I had a bunionectomy performed on my foot. I was worried about staying out of work too long so I. returned a couple of weeks later. I was working two jobs: as the news director at KYW-AM and as an adjunct professor at Temple University's School of Communications.

Following the surgery, a blood clot formed in my leg, broke free, and caused me to have a pulmonary embolism. I started to feel lightheaded and then lost consciousness. A friend and pastor called 911 and took me to a local hospital.

The hospital treated the pulmonary embolism with blood thinners, but they had an unintended side effect. The side effect was that some of the blood that was thinned out of my heart and lungs traveled up into my brain. The blood in my brain caused me to have a series of strokes. At that point, the staff at a small community hospital where I was initially treated decided they couldn't do anything else for me and I was transported to another hospital.

The doctors moved quickly to perform a blood clot evacuation. They knew that the parts of my brain that control memory, speech and language comprehension had been affected by the bleeding. The doctors told my mother and my daughter that I might die. Nevertheless, the surgery was deemed necessary and they went ahead with it. This entire time I was put into an induced coma. I remember very little if anything about this time. After the clot evacuation doctors performed a craniotomy so that my brain could have room to heal and swell without bumping up against my skull. I was still in a coma throughout all of this. Finally, after a few weeks they decided to take me off the drugs that were keeping me in a medically induced coma.

When I came out of the coma, I hardly recognized myself. Half of my head was missing (though it was wrapped in a bandage) and I still had a tracheotomy in my throat. As far as talking and understanding, I was in pretty bad shape, for a while. But shortly after this God chose to make strides in my life and he continues to help me everyday! I moved into a rehab hospital and was there for a while doing exercise and speech therapy. By Christmas 2005 I left the rehab hospital and came home. It was a little difficult at first because my son lives with me. He was only 11 years old when I came back and I was very worried that he would not understand what happened to me. Today, he's 14 and happy that I'm doing fine again.

It wasn't until March of 2006, that the rest of my skull was reattached. From home, I continued doing speech therapy and now I continue going to rehab. I'm almost finished with a study I'm working on with them to understand what happens to people like me with Aphasia. I also attend a conversation group with others who have Aphasia and I go to a book group meeting where others with Aphasia are reading a book.

I'm now very glad to be volunteering at Abington Memorial Hospital. I love to help people who had a stroke and are trying to get better. I think I have a unique situation. Others may have had some of the same problems I've had and I'd love to be able to talk to them about how they can get better. While my life is very different now, it is far from over. I used to do some really wonderful things professionally and I love opportunities to do more wonderful things in my personal life that enrich others.

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