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Team Missy to Hit the Comeback Trail

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski Mar 09 2017

On April 8, 2014, Melissa Kirby collapsed on a running trail near where her daughter was practicing lacrosse.

She was 42 years old and in perfect shape when she experienced a brain stem stroke that would put her in a coma for four days. For two months she had locked-in syndrome—a condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes.

“It blind-sided our family terribly,” said her sister, Jessica Sarkis, who soon after Melissa’s stroke quit her job in Chicago and moved back to the area to be near her sister.

Today Melissa is in a sub-acute facility in Columbia, Md., near her parents who live down the street. Her husband, Matt, and their two children live in Baltimore, Md.

“She’s definitely made considerable progress and has demonstrated the ability to stand on her own,” said Jessica. “Her goal now is to walk with a walker or with assistance.”

Her goal also is to join her family and friends on April 22 when Team Melissa participates in the National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5K starting at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Plaza in Washington, D.C. The family’s accessible van will transport Melissa in her wheelchair and Melissa plans to walk across the finish line with assistance from her therapists.

“A couple of her therapists have already joined our team,” said Jessica Sarkis. “We want to get involved in any way we can and we want to bring particular attention to brainstem strokes and the fact that anyone can have a stroke. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or healthy.”

Melissa ate organic, did yoga, meditated and is a founding partner at Shine Creative, a video production company that was an outgrowth of her Shine Collective trendy boutique. Her husband and partner took over her business and try to include her in meetings.

“Her work and her family are so important to her and she wants to get back to them both.” said Jessica. “Nothing is wrong with her mind and she has a lot of good ideas.”

Although her cognitive ability is 100 percent, her speech is strained as she fights to string sentences together. She’s fed by a feeding tube and longs to return home.

“All of our hope is that in the next year or two she can progress enough that she can do things on her own,” said Jessica. “She’s told us she’s not going to stay there forever.”

Jessica said Melissa brings patience to her recovery.

“She’s very much in touch with herself which has helped a lot,” said Jessica. “She’s had a few low points but I would say overall her attitude is simply amazing. She’s always been extremely positive.”

To register for a National Stroke Association Comeback Trail 5K event, visit

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