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December 21st, 2010
09:02 AM ET

Human Factor: At 26, a young mind disabled by stroke

Katherine Wolf's life changed in a split second, when a brain bleed nearly killed her. Here is her story in her own words.

At 26 years old, I was living out my dreams in Los Angeles, with my husband, Jay, and 6-month old baby, James.

All that would change on April 21, 2008, when I nearly died of a massive brain stem stroke.

Defying all odds, I survived and am fighting for my recovery while battling many significant deficits to this day. As a result of my stroke and lifesaving brain surgery, I was left unable walk, talk, or swallow, with severe double vision and right ear deafness, as well as right side facial paralysis and lack of fine motor coordination in my right hand.

My son was left in the care of family and friends as I lingered on life-support in ICU for 40 days. For the next year and a half, I underwent daily physical, occupational, and swallowing therapy in the hopes of regaining all that I had lost. After two months of silence, communicating by pointing to letters on a board and spelling out words, I uttered my first breathy word on June 18, 2008.

After 11 months without eating orally, I finally passed a swallowing test (after failing nine previous ones) on March 29, 2009, and was cleared to eat normally again. After being in a wheelchair for 18 months, at first unable to even hold up my own head, I began walking with a quad-based cane on October 21, 2009. After nearly two years of depending on others to completely care for my child, I was able to balance my weight against the crib and safely put him to bed on April 5, 2010.

Now, over two and a half years later, I have learned that combating life's deepest unmet expectations with hope has made all the difference. I write updates about my recovery and the lessons I am learning in the process at www.katherinewolf.info.

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Filed under: Brain • Human Factor

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