Motivated by her desire to care for her daughter, a first-time mom overcomes challenges of a stroke she suffered during delivery
As she headed into the operating room, Melynda Rackley knew Aug. 5, 2012, would be a day to remember.
Excited and scared, she was about to undergo a C-section procedure to bring her daughter Kayla into the world. Melynda’s mother stood by her side, gripping her hand in support. But she couldn’t feel her mom’s tight grip.
Then, immediately after Kayla’s delivery, Melynda had two intense, back-to-back headaches.
“It felt as if my brain was trying to get out of my skull,” she said.
Doctors assured Melynda she would soon feel normal. The medications were causing the numbing sensation on her left side and the acute headaches, they said.
But Melynda’s numbness and headaches were far from routine – they were the first signs of a stroke.
***About 16 hours after delivery, doctors recognized the severity of Melynda’s symptoms and diagnosed her stroke. She was quickly transferred to a different hospital.
“They wanted to give me the best chance at living,” she said.
The common signs of stroke ignored during delivery landed the healthy 23-year-old on an unexpected journey to recovery. At her rehabilitation facility, Melynda would receive therapy to regain physical strength and independence.
Melynda was often depressed when she felt shame and sadness, seeing older patients in the stroke unit walking better than her. Medical staff had to help her perform basic daily tasks like bathing and dressing. On some days, she wouldn’t even get out of bed.
Worse, Melynda was heartbroken about her new disabilities preventing her from holding Kayla with both arms during those precious weekly visits.
Through it all, Melynda’s mother was by her side, reassuring her the way she did in the hospital the day her life changed in such an unexpected way.
“Don’t worry, Melynda, Kayla knows who you are,” she said. “You are her mother. She loves you and doesn’t care if you hold her with one arm or two. All she needs is you.”
The unconditional support of Melynda’s father also gave her the strength she needed to push forward.
"You have two legs, two arms, ten fingers and ten toes. Someone doesn't. Tomorrow will be better, I promise," he said.
Motivated by her daughter, Melynda fought hard to overcome her stroke. The road to recovery came with many hurdles but she regained her independence and claimed victory. Today, Melynda and Kayla are busy creating mommy-daughter memories like any healthy, modern family. She’s also training for a 5K.She credits her powerful faith and the unconditional support of her mother, family, close friends, pastor and caring therapists, who motivate and support her every step.
Melynda donates valuable time to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a volunteer. She is a model for the association’s new Together to End Stroke initiative and shares her story often to teach others the importance of recognizing stroke warning signs.