Heart disease and stroke are ever-present threats that touch lives on a daily basis. Never discriminating, these startling conditions can attack anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. Here, local survivor Karlene Eaton shares her harrowing tale of surviving a stroke. Allow her experience to educate you and bring you hope.
Karlene P. Eaton
It was a sunny January day in 2016, and I had just one stop to make before work that morning – the doctor’s office. I was seeing my cardiologist for a regular checkup, and although I was feeling fine when I arrived, my whole world soon turned upside down.
My speech became slurred. My vision blurred. The left side of my face began to droop. Immediately, the nurse called the doctor, and right away, he knew what was happening. As grace would have it, there were paramedics in the building that day. They assessed the situation and determined I needed to go to the hospital. During the ambulance ride, one of the paramedics desperately tried to get an IV in my arm. He was challenged by the speeding of the ambulance (later I would see how bruised my left arm was from his efforts), but he was able to administer the life-saving drug. I was told that the first three hours after a stroke are critical, and if those paramedics hadn’t reacted as quickly as they had, this story might have had a different ending.
I remained in the stroke unit at Erlanger Hospital for a week before being transferred to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Chattanooga. The rehab was intense – lots of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and of course, physical therapy. I was determined, and with the support of the staff, my family, and friends, I slowly began to see results. Some days, I would cry. Some days, I felt like my brain just wasn’t working at all. But I put my body, mind, and soul into rehab, and after a month, I was dismissed to go home.
I still have challenges: The stroke affected my speech the most, particularly my ability to read, speak, and write. My vision was also affected, and I suffer from fatigue. To this day, I still require a leg brace, and I use a cane for balance. However, I do not let any of these challenges keep me down: Last fall, I spent two wonderful weeks with my daughter and son-in-law, who live in Collierville, Tennessee. I have also taken some bus trips, traveling around the country. I spend time at the Eastgate Senior Center, taking part in various activities and making new friends, and I’m active at my church.
My journey has had many ups and downs – days of heartache, but also days of joy. I plan to continue walking this journey as long as I can. My stroke taught me that there is life after stroke. You just have to believe in yourself!
The American Heart Association is dedicated to building healthy lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke, through education, caregiver support, research, and development of health care professionals. Go Red for Women is a social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health by equipping them with the knowledge necessary to lead healthy lives with healthy hearts.