The Secrets of Successful Stroke Survival

Updated:Feb 7,2014

Excerpted from "The Secrets of Success," Stroke Connection Magazine January/February 2004 (Last science update March 2013)

At Stroke Connection Magazine we hear of individual after individual who beat the odds and went on to do what those around them called impossible. We hear of people who, from the perspective of onlookers, should have no hope and are destined to lives of isolation and dissatisfaction. And yet they hope, they thrive and live lives that are equally satisfying, if not more so, than before the stroke occurred. What do these people carry within that allows them to take what others see as the end of a “normal” life and turn it into something wonderful, happy and hopeful?

We thought if we were to sit down with some of these people and explore that question, we might find some common ground. Perhaps we could uncover the secret ingredients to successful stroke survival.

So we met with three men and three women of various ages from around the country, all of whom have survived stroke. We asked a few questions, listened…and learned.

Defining Success

When asked to define “success” in the realm of stroke survival, the group covered extensive ground, different milestones in recovery, like regaining speech or mobility or driving again. But when they really boiled it down, physical, communication and cognitive accomplishments weren’t how they defined success. They concluded that one may live with these types of challenges at some level for years, but can still be considered successful.

Wendy Covill, the mother of three small children who lives in rural New Hampshire, had an interesting idea where the process started. “Success and courage go side by side,” she said. “It takes courage to get up every morning and try the things you failed at yesterday, to try today, in front of other people, with the likelihood you are going to fail again. Without the courage to try there is no success.”                                                

“Waking up, getting out of bed and accomplishing at least one thing before my nap. If I can do that, I have had a successful day,” explained Sherry May, a poet and stroke advocate in Iowa.

Throughout the conversation, however, two things stood out and were mentioned by all the participants in one way or another. First was accepting the “new” normal, whatever that may be. The second was the ability to move forward with a positive attitude.

Art Gottlieb, an author living in California, gave a clear synopsis: “Life will never be the same for anyone who has survived a stroke, but successful survivors are those who can accept the reality of their new situation with a positive attitude. As such they are able to live each day productively, with as much creativity and fulfillment as possible within the new boundaries imposed by the stroke.”

Learn what these and other successful survivors say about:

Staying Positive
Having Support

This content was last reviewed on 03/18/2013.