Kristin Bedinghaus, 35, is a mom of two sets of twins who lives in St. Petersburg, FL. She shared her story exclusively with FirstforWomen.com If you want to know more about the causes and risk factors for strokes, go to the American Stroke Association. You can read the first part of her inspiring story here.
After my stroke, the doctors had mentioned that not walking was a possibility. But nothing prepared me for that moment of actually trying to stand--and then failing. My reaction was basically denial: I wouldn’t allow never walking again to be an option for me. I vowed I’d do whatever it took to get back to normal. My faith and my kids drove me. Whatever the new normal was going to be, I’d do it for my children.
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At first it was challenging to find the right mix of doctors who believed in me as much as I believed in myself, but I did. With a lot of persistence and questions on my part, they discovered I had a patent foreman ovale (PFO), a hole between the chambers in my heart. PFOs usually close by themselves as people become adults, but sometimes they don’t—and they may be a likely cause of cryptogenic strokes. An operation closed it up, and then I got the doctors blessing to work aggressively with a team of physical therapists.
For 14 months, five days a week, a team of therapists worked with me. We were lucky that the kids were so young when this was happening. They could sense that something was wrong and things were different, but they really didn't understand much except Mommy was sick in the hospital. When I came home, they knew things were off because we had to move our bed downstairs. I just wasn't able to get upstairs to our bedroom.
They were also very curious about my walker and all of the nurses and therapists that were coming to our home. I’d always been a very hands-on mom and I was no longer able to be as active. This threw them off and really made things hard for me. But I just had to trust--and I also prayed a whole lot!
My husband, Elliott, was amazing and helped out with almost everything. He had to be dad, mom, and caregiver. Plus, we had an amazing network of family and friends who did grocery shopping, prepared meals for months, and helped out in so many other ways. I really felt everyone's love during that difficult time.
Nearly four years later, I can carpool kids, go to sports events, even cry about my children getting older. So I can do pretty much everything any other mother does! I still consider myself blessed, but my life is different. I still struggle with the new way I walk, especially when I chase a runaway kid or go out to a nice restaurant. But things could be a lot worse and I'm so proud of how far I've come. I try not to be scared about it happening again, but it's always in the back of my mind so I've just learned to listen to my body even more.
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I really want people to know that strokes can happen to anyone. I was a healthy, happy 31-year-old, and without warning, my body sabotaged me one random morning. With more awareness, people can learn to look for the signs and symptoms of stroke—and what to do if they or their loved ones have one.
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