Frankfort, Kentucky resident, Carmen Thompson, is 66 years young. So when she suffered a stroke December of last year, she didn’t believe it was happening to her.
“I woke up and was numb on my left side,” Carmen, who teaches 6th grade at Franklin County Schools, said. “I didn’t think my face was drooping so I went to school like normal.” But Carmen’s students immediately noticed something was wrong. “The kids kept looking at me funny,” she said.
Carmen’s superintendent finally came into her room and sent her home, telling her she believed she was having a stroke. “I should have gone right to the hospital,” Carmen said. But instead she went home and asked her husband drive her to the emergency room. Still in denial, though she admits she knew all the stroke symptoms and was having several, Carmen said she didn’t want to face the fact that she may be having a stroke.
With an extensive family history of stroke, Carmen also struggles with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and is a type 2 diabetic. After spending five days in the stroke unit at the hospital, Carmen knew her stroke had been major. “The nurses called me a medical train wreck,” Carmen said. “I was sent for rehab,” she said. “I initially thought I’d stay there for just a few days, but I ended up in rehab for a month.”
During her rehab, Carmen received both occupational and physical therapy, both of which she desperately needed, especially for her extremely weak left side. She worked hard during that first month, just to recover her ability to walk and move properly. “I still needed help getting around,” she said. “Anything that needed zipping or buttoning or getting out of the shower I struggled with.”
After her first two weeks were complete, Carmen set goals, one of the most important being that she wanted to be back in her classroom teaching by January of 2016. “They teach you to set goals but remind you to know that you may have to change them,” she said.
Indeed Carmen eventually admitted that she would not be able to return to teaching for the duration of the school year. “I hope to be back in time for school to begin again in August,” she said. “I had another minor stroke the end of February that set me back quite a bit,” Carmen said. “I’m still in a wheelchair but I’m doing a lot better with my memory and processing things.”
Her advice for those who think they may be suffering from a stroke? “If you have symptoms, don’t stay in denial,” Carmen said. “Go immediately and get checked out. If I had gone to the hospital a little bit quicker, I know I wouldn’t have such a long recovery period.”