Ms. Venita's Story

Updated:Nov 28,2012

My experience started way before I had a stroke. I was a workaholic, totally out of sync. My ambition to succeed was created by certain people telling me, “You’re a bum, get a real job, you can’t be self-employed!”

“I’ll show them!” I thought. I became so driven I drove myself to a stroke. I thought I was normal and everyone else was slow. I was raising my daughter, working as an event planner, a makeup artist, and a road manager with several clients, and I was very involved in my church. But I was so caught up in trying to be something, I did not realize I had accomplished my dreams, so I kept pushing.

Eventually I swapped naps for sleeping, but this soon caught up with me. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, but I moved back to Syracuse when I learned my Mom had cancer. I became her caretaker. After Mom passed, I started over. I had a daughter in college to support! Then one day I started having severe pain in my lungs. The doctor said it was pleurisy, but I didn’t think so. I felt I had a blood clot and asked them to test for one. They wouldn’t, and a month later a blood clot in the left side of my brain caused a stroke that affected my right side.

It started as I headed for Atlanta to visit my daughter. I was so weak and tired a friend had to carry my suitcase. We decided if I just ate I something I’d feel better. Wrong! In Atlanta my daughter wanted to do “girly” things. I wanted rest. Later I felt a migraine coming and needed sleep. I’m not sure if I slept or passed out. I woke up and tried to get to the bathroom, but my legs and torso seemed to be separate from the rest of me. I remember telling my body we had to get together. I hopped to the bathroom, got back in bed and slept until my daughter got home.

I was so glad she was tired and wanted to stay home because I was walking funny and my right side felt numb. Finally, we agreed I should go to the hospital. We were laughing because I would see people and trees in the middle of the street. They couldn’t convince me this wasn’t real. 

I have this rule: Get sicker when you get to the hospital, and never walk in! Let them come and get you. No problem! I couldn’t move. A nurse checked my eyes and I was rushed to have a CAT scan. The verdict: a stroke. “I’m too young!” I thought. “And what is a stroke, and how do you get one?” 

I bargained: “Okay, I’m overweight and stressed, but I’m just tired. It’s just a really bad headache!” After I was admitted, reality set in. I was in bed and my daughter was pacing, scared to death. I was just in denial. I needed to compose myself, pray and understand what was going on. I told her to leave the room for awhile. For the first time I put my need above her pain. I asked God, Jesus and my angels, were they all with me? I heard “yes”! – and I knew I could beat this!

I had no short-term memory. I did have one phone number in my head. I called and a woman talked as if she knew me, but I didn’t know who she was. When I realized it was my god-sister, I asked her to call anyone I knew including my sister-friend Sandy, and tell them I had a stroke. After she stopped screaming, she called. My pastor’s number came to mind. I called and we prayed. I just relaxed and went with the flow.

I always believed I could conquer anything. Sickness was in the mind! Well, now it was definitely in my brain, and my body. I returned to Syracuse, and my best friend stayed on. I couldn’t function alone. I slept a lot. Noise and large crowds scared me. I had a hard time remembering anything. My eyes were very sensitive to light, and it seemed like a brick wall surrounded them. I had tunnel vision, and to this day I stub my toes and walk into things. I didn’t have any physical evidence of a stroke, so the doctors and others forgot how much trouble I was in. I was an emotional wreck.

I started physical therapy but couldn’t take the stress of leaving the house, so they came to me. I had right-side weakness and, eventually, clinical depression. I took medicine just to function. I couldn’t walk the length of a piano without getting out of breath. I started to heal when I finally admitted I had a stroke; but doggone it, this stroke couldn’t have me! Someone suggested applying for permanent disability. I refused. That was like saying I would never get better. For the first time since childhood I was afraid. I was in a battle I couldn’t win easily. All my adult life people said I couldn’t succeed, so I had a deep fear of failure. And if I failed now, they were right!  It never matters what others think, but whenever I had run into obstacles or took a different career direction, I’d think the voices were right. I finally learned that a different path is wisdom, not failure. It took 18 months to heal 75 percent. It took over two years to get back to work and be on my own. I was most afraid of myself. Had I really learned? Would I always be driven? The irony is that all the money I worked so hard for, I had to use up to survive. Now, my health comes first! I rest and take time off. I work out five or six days a week and I’ve lost over 70 pounds and four dress sizes.

Best of all, I run after peace.