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Stroke Spotlight: Sherry Curnutt

May is American Stroke Month, and we are featuring the story of Sherry Curnutt, a stroke survivor from Houston, who had a stroke when she was getting ready to ride a horse. She passed out, and woke up with three horses crowded around her, wondering what happened. Learn more about Sherry's story and share your own. 

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On May 26th last year I arrived at the barn south of Houston only to discover that my gelding was slightly lame and needed to rest.  My trainer, Cathy, was supposed to work with me that day in dressage training, so she offered me her own horse, a mare named Rumba to use in the lesson. I had to get her out of the pasture where she had been put out for the day with about a dozen other mares.  I remember feeling unusually tired, but I counted on a good ride to pick me up. I found Rumba’s halter on a peg next to the gate, but I had a little difficulty opening the gate which I now realize was a loss of strength due to an erratic heartbeat. I easily caught Rumba and gave her a treat with some of the other mares crowding around hoping that I had an extra.  Rumba is a tall mare, and as I struggled to reach up to get the halter over her head and fasten the buckle I knew that I was fainting and tried to hold myself up holding the mare’s mane.

I woke up with three or four of the mares standing over me with their bristly noses touching my chest and stomach. I remember thinking that I’d fainted and had to get help. I struggled to get my arms and legs to move and turn over to get up! I don’t remember getting up and making it to a row of large Crepe Myrtle bushes, but I found myself standing, holding on to a branch. I walked myself from branch to branch until I came to the last tree. I was standing there holding tightly to the tree wondering how I was going to let go of the limb and make it back to the gate when my trainer walked up behind me calling my name and asking me what was wrong. She’d seen me standing there with horses around me and knew immediately that something wasn’t right.  

The trainer called one of the grooms to bring her golf cart to the field to pick me up and called 911. She called my daughter, an executive at Texas Children’s Hospital, who called Methodist Hospital, a place well-equipped to handle strokes. The EMTs were efficient and got me there quickly. I spent 8 days there receiving great treatment from the second I arrived. They found that I’d had a bilateral stroke caused by A-Fib.  After a few days in the CCU and a few more in the Dubakey Heart Wing, I went home with lots of meds and daily visits from home health care therapists.

It’s been a year, and I’ve gotten back to doing just about everything that I used to do. I’m back to riding my horse and caring for my grandchildren. My balance isn’t quite what it used to be so I now call my riding with my trainer, “Advanced Therapeutic Dressage.”

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