Posted by Lynn Bronikowski Mar 23 2017
Bernadette Wells had no idea she was having a stroke when she went to sleep with a headache on June 26, 2010, awoke the next morning and drove herself to the emergency room while sipping a cup of coffee.
“I had no warning signs and they certainly don’t send you a text that you’re having a stroke. I never knew you could have a stroke at the age of 42,” says Wells of Washington, D.C.
She was whisked by a medical helicopter to Georgetown University Medical Center where she underwent emergency surgery to repair the aneurysm in her brain.
“The helicopter ride was terrifying but they couldn’t take the chance of trying to get me through the traffic,” recalls Wells.
Following her hospital stay and inpatient rehab she would return to her home on Aug. 14—nearly two months after experiencing the worst headache of her life. She would continue to rehab at home—walking and doing the exercises she was taught at the rehab center.
She plans to walk in the National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5K run/walk which will be held on April 22 at the Jefferson Memorial Plaza in Washington D.C.
“I have done very well,” says Wells. “I’m out of the wheelchair and using a cane. I’m a fulltime student scheduled to graduate with a degree in business management in 2018. I can’t wait to walk across that stage and accept my diploma.”
She had to leave her job in upper management in the hospitality industry because travel and long hours on her feet were too much for the stroke survivor.
“I opted to go to school and figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” says Wells. “It’s been a serious hurdle and every day is still a struggle even after all these years.”
But she’s changed her eating habits to eliminate fast foods, controls her blood pressure and tries to walk and exercise daily.
“Of course you always feel that you can do a little better but I look at where I came from and I’m very pleased,” she says. “You actually do step back and appreciate day to day life for what it is. This taught me that family is most important and without their support there’s no way I would have made it.”
The mother of one daughter and grandmother to two now wants to tell her story to wider audiences through Toastmasters groups and other venues.
“So many people are blind to the fact that stroke can happen to anyone. People are just amazed when I tell them my story,” says Wells. “When they see me they have no idea I had a stroke and a brain aneurysm. For me, being positive is the biggest part of recovery.”
She continues to have partial paralysis in her left side and has learned to adapt using only one hand.
“When it first happened, I was bitter and you say, ‘why me?,’” says Wells. “But now when I look in the mirror I like what I see.”
The National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail run/walk is approximately 5K and will begin at 9 a.m. on April 22 at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Plaza in Washington D.C. For information and to register visit www.comebacktrail.org.
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