Blog 9 - Claudia Connects with the American Stroke Association

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 of the challenges facing stroke recovery patients and people in recovery can take strength and inspiration from knowing they are not alone.

Meeting people my own age who are recovering from a stroke is often challenging. I have been reaching out to the American Stroke Association both to volunteer and to meet people who are my age. We finally connected, and I am so excited. I spoke with Leslie from the American Stroke Association.  We scheduled a meeting with the communication director for later in the month.  I will tell them my story and see if there is a volunteer event to introduce myself to people my own age.  I just want to say thank you to Sarah at the Instagram account “Three_stromies” for telling me about the American Stroke Association. Sarah also made two friends from the association who had a stroke and they are her age, which makes me hopeful I will meet some new friends, as well.  Stay tuned if you would like to hear about my meeting with the director.

Every Monday I go to my sister’s house in Smithtown, and watch my nephews, Matthew and Justin. I want to tell you about how kind they both are.  I was watching a movie the other day, and we started to talk, but I have aphasia and I got stuck on a word.  I couldn’t pronounce it.  And they let me try four times to pronounce it, and then Justin, who is only six, says, “Aunt Claudia, you don’t have to say that word.”  And I got overwhelmed with emotion.  I remembered back when I was in the hospital, they had a social worker tell Matthew, Justin, and and Gwen that I was “like a computer and I was misfiring a little, and it will take a long time (if ever) to get all of my computer parts working again.”  (I do not remember but my sisters, Stephanie and Christina, told me a few months after I got out of the hospital.) 

My niece and nephews, they take that message to heart, and as far as my speech goes, they are wonderful.  Especially Justin. He goes to speech therapy too, and I remember when three weeks after the stroke, we were watching the Super Bowl at my parent’s house.  Matthew and Justin were staying there because their parents were away.  I was also staying there for 4 weeks for my in-house rehabilitation. Justin would help me communicate. I could only say about 10% of my vocabulary then.  He came home from school and talk to me about his speech therapy.  He would try to be the teacher, and I was the student, at do Speech Therapy at home.  I was learning a little bit from Justin.  Matthew and Gwen were lovely, too.  I thank the powers that be for my nephews and my niece.  I just look at them, and all my troubles melt away.

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

To read Claudia's last blog, click here.