I’m thrilled to share our next pedestal with all of you (I know, I know, it’s been much too long since we’ve had a pedestal interview)!
Our interviewee is the one and only Vickie Dawson, who happens to be the sister in law of our StL contributor Alli. Vickie is a wife, mother, kick butt athlete, nanny, blogger, and Disney travel extraordinaire.
Almost three months ago Vickie suffered a stroke but every day she is inspiring all those around her by thriving.
Okay Vickie, first off, when people look at your picture they are going to immediately assume that you’re too young to have suffered strokes. So how old are you?
What caused your stroke/how many did you have?
My strokes were caused by a vertebral artery dissection. I pushed so hard at a workout that I actually caused the artery that runs through the vertebrae in my neck to tear and separate from the artery wall. The injury site is where clots began to form. Later that day I felt well enough and decided to help move a heavy wooden swing set out of my yard. The strain from this exertion loosened the clots from the dissection and it lead to 2 blockages in my brain to have a stroke.
What were your symptoms?
When the dissection happened I felt like I had strained my neck, nothing major, just a little discomfort. I also had a bout of light-headedness, but it only lasted about 20 minutes. I had no idea something so serious was going on.
When the stroke happened, I felt like I was going to “melt” to the floor, and I did. My entire left side felt completely disconnected and very heavy. I also had numbness on my whole left side as well as weakness.
What are the side effects of your strokes?
I have patchy numbness on the entire left side of my body. The sensory is slowly remapping, but the feeling on my left is completely different than my right and much more dull. My proprioception is also very impaired. If I’m not looking at my arm I most likely have no idea where it is in space. I also lost almost complete use of my left side when the stroke first occurred. However, with lots and lots of hard work I am now independently mobile and able to do most tasks that I did before. I may not do them exactly the same or as quickly, but I still get most things done.
What was a typical day like prior to your strokes and what is a typical day like now?
Before the strokes I was a busy mom who was passionate about family, fitness, travel, and having as much fun as possible. I would wake up, get my family off to work and school, go running, clean, cook, shop, garden, pick up my girl from school, do homework and girl talk, take my girl to cheer, go to the gym for a strength workout, run a little more, pick up my daughter from cheer, eat dinner and crash. I also showered in between all that exercise and running around, promise.
A typical day now is not much different it’s just scaled back. I still take care of my family and home, but I don’t do things quite as elaborate as before. I also have replaced my hard-core running and workouts with stationary biking, walking, and lots of physical therapy exercises.
Has anything surprised you post stroke? Biggest frustration?
I am surprised by something everyday! I feel like I’m constantly changing. I wake up to a slightly different me every morning. Sensation and coordination are changing all the time and it’s usually for the better…not always, but mostly.
My biggest frustration is overall coordination on my left side. It gets better day by day…but sometimes getting my hand to do simple tasks, feels like I am trying to send psychic messages to Mars.
I know you’ve had to do some intensive physical therapy- what kinds of exercises do you have to do? How many hours a day?
I went to an inpatient intensive rehab for a couple of weeks where I worked with physical and occupational therapists for 3 hours a day. Currently I attend outpatient therapy twice a week, but I do my own training everyday. Typically I work on therapies 2-3 hours a day.
I started out with extremely basic exercises like tapping my toes, moving my arms up and down, and kicking my legs out while sitting. I have since graduated to exercises such as walk/jog intervals, squats, lunges, planks, crunches, and light-weights. I begin every workout with 30-60 minutes of cardio and then start on circuit training. My list of exercises from physical therapy is seriously a novel, but I don’t do them all everyday. I choose 10-15 different exercises and make my own WOD (workout of the day). It’s definitely different than my old workouts, but I’m grateful for my current capabilities and the progress I’ve seen so far.
Biggest accomplishment post stroke?
My biggest accomplishment has been in the little things. Walking my dog, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, fixing my daughters hair, and passing my drivers evaluation. It’s all the small everyday tasks that I may have robotically done before that add up to my one big goal of living my life.
If/when you feel down how do you keep going? What’s your motivation?
When I feel down or frustrated I usually just need a break from all the recovery stuff. I will call or text a friend or family member to see how they are. Focusing on the people I care about gives me a sense of normalcy.
How has having strokes changed your outlook on life?
The biggest change in my outlook is that I am now making all my family and friend relationships a top priority. Before the strokes I was going a mile a minute and if I had time to chat for 2 minutes while waiting in the school parking lot, reading grocery ads, writing “to do” lists, and eating a late lunch, I felt like that was adequate. Now, I realize how important it has been for me to have so many wonderfully supportive people in my life and I don’t want to take them for granted.
What is the most important thing you want the world to know about strokes?
A stroke can happen to anyone! I was the healthiest I had ever been and guess what? I had a stroke! Know the signs and be educated about what to do in an emergency situation.
I also want people to know that even though terrible things can and do happen, it doesn’t mean life is over or that you have to change all your plans. There is plenty of joy and fulfillment in life after having a stroke. Lots of things change, don’t get me wrong, but by focusing on the things I can accomplish and striving for improvement, I am able to move forward.
For more on Vickie be sure to check out her blog (which is on a brief hiatus while she focuses on her recovery): http://presentlyobsessed.wordpress.com/
Stroke survivor or not, you have the opportunity to defy the odds today, the opportunity to rise above. How will you defy your odds today?
I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra. After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment. (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at email@example.com or on Instagram @strokedtolife.