Thursday, September 26, 2019

Young stroke survivor Nicky Bruno reminds us of the importance of self advocacy

Two years ago Nicky Bruno had a stroke, as a young adult working and coaching in collegiate athletics in the USA, this was absolutely devastating. Here Nicky shares her story and encourages us all to take the initiative in preventing a stroke.

Where were you when you had your stroke? - I had my stroke at my home at the age of 30.

Could you access hospital? - I was in the vicinity of two hospitals (within 30 minutes) of my home. One was a Primary Stroke Center and one was a Comprehensive Stroke Center.  

What expectations did you have for your treatment, rehabilitation and recovery? -  I was diagnosed with a spontaneous vertebral artery dissection, which is a tear that formed in the artery of my neck, that produced a clot which disrupted the flow of blood to my brain. This led to my cerebellar stroke. Following my diagnosis, I expected that there would be more information known about my specific condition and that there would be a set plan for recovery already in place. 

What was your experience of treatment and rehabilitation? - Since my condition is rare, I had to research and visit a young stroke specialist to help me devise a rehabilitation plan. The stroke affected my cerebellum and left me unable to walk, balance, or read. Entering a rehabilitation and nursing facility and then finding an outpatient physical therapy clinic that could help create innovative vestibular exercises was crucial to my recovery.  

What has helped you in your recovery? - Directly following my stroke, I dedicated myself to learning as much as I possibly could about my condition and focused relentlessly on my rehabilitation. Having been an athlete all of my life and a collegiate coach at the time of my stroke, I transferred my focus to retraining my brain. Currently, I have slowly regained my balance and the ability to not only walk on my own but jog again. With time, dedication and practice, I was also able to manage my visual symptoms enough to be able to type, read, and drive. Each day I continue to work to find ways to modify my daily life to fit my new normal.  

What have been/are your fears?I would have to say my biggest fear was/is sustaining another stroke since mine was spontaneous. 

How did your family and friends feel and respond? -  Following my stroke, I was unable to work or care for myself. Without the help and support of my family and their tireless pursuit to get me the best possible care, I would not be where I am today! 

Do you have a message for our World Stroke Campaign this year?
I firmly believe that it is equally important to be your own advocate when it comes to your health if you are able. This begins with taking the initiative to employ prevention strategies, knowing your individual risk factors, and identifying the various signs and symptoms of a stroke! 

While stroke is typically thought of as something that affects only older individuals, this experience has opened my eyes to the fact that young stroke is more common than we think. I am passionate about advocating for young stroke, and I wanted to reach out in the hope that I can help others! 

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