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September 05, 2018

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano is the Happiness Hero at John’s Crazy Socks. While still a young woman (Claudia is only 35), she suffered a major stroke in January 2017. Claudia is an essential team member at John’s Crazy socks working to spread happiness and show every day what is possible when you give a person a chance. Claudia is sharing her recovery in this blog, so others can learn off the challenges facing stroke recovery patients and people in recovery can take strength and inspiration from knowing they are not alone.

 

This year, I am going to participate in the Long Island Comeback Trail on October 20th. The National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5k is a national event that raises awareness and empowers stroke survivors.  It takes place at Jones Beach, and it is sponsored by the National Stroke Association.  And I am going to take part in it because I’m glad I survived, and I would like to meet other people like me, who survived a stroke. 

I would really like to meet people my own age to talk to at the Comeback Trail.  People like me who have to work.  I wish I knew others because I had so many questions. Like, how do you find a job after the stroke? 

If you’re like me, you’ll find a myriad of positions you’re interested in, but how do you apply?  You can’t write a cover letter. You can’t express the reason why you might want that job. Your brain might want to but since the stroke, you can’t do everything that it requires.  When I was applying for the Director of Development job, I was worried.  If I got called for the interview, how would I talk on the phone or go in for the interview?  How would I write up a grant proposal?  How would I speak publicly?  How would I respond to the email? 

I was lost and cried every day.  And I felt so alone because I couldn’t talk to the people around me who wanted me to talk, but I couldn’t talk, literally.

I quit my old job because I felt I couldn’t perform my job duties anymore. Problem was: I had a house, a car lease, and bills to pay.  On the inside, I was a mess and didn’t know where I could turn.  But then my friend Courtney told me about a job fair geared to differently abled people, and it was right around the corner at Farmingdale College.  I arrived at the mainstage just in time to catch the keynote speakers. The speakers were Mark and John Cronin from John’s Crazy Socks. I knew Mark professionally from the Huntington Chamber of Commerce.  After the motivating speech, Mark and John were in the lobby so I approached them to say hello.  We got to talking and I mentioned the difficulty I had searching for a job.  Mark told me that they were not hiring, but I should call him because he had an idea. The rest is history. I got a part time job with John’s Crazy Socks as a Happiness Hero.  I also got a second part time job with the Town of Huntington. Thanks to Robert Hughes, I was going back to my old job as Assistant Historian.  All was right in the world again.  I was working every day (and now, I work full-time at John’s Crazy Socks).

Back to the Comeback Trail, I think I will really love being there. All my family, friends, and co-workers will be there to support me. I hope you’ll join me, too. John’s Crazy Socks is supporting me and the 7 million stroke survivors by participating in the Comeback Trail. If you would like to donate, please click here. 

I thank my lucky stars for the people in my life, and I am so grateful to them.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that you do for me.  Especially my family, I don’t know what I would do without you. My parents allowed my husband and I to stay at their house during my recovery, and they would drive me to rehab every day, and they still take me at the doctors. If you're reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you would like to support me in raising awareness, you can donate to the National Stroke Association here.Together, we can empower survivors and caregivers as they come back strong from a stroke.

Every day, every week, I take more steps. It’s hard, but I keep getting better.

You can read last weeks's blog here.


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