Claudia's Blog #24 - Speaking Out For Young Stroke Survivors

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano is the Happiness Hero at John’s Crazy Socks. At the age of only 34, she suffered a major stroke in January of 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.

Looking back on the videos that I made when I was just starting my blog, it is shocking. They were short and I’d get stuck on a word or a sentence.  Watching those I can see that I am better than I was then.  But if I were to be picky with myself, I would say that I did not get better enough.  Two years since my stroke, I think enough is enough.  However, people all around me keep saying it’s a short time.   When I hear that, I go crazy.  Two years? Two years? It is a long time to me. It is lifetime. 

I start thinking about the Institute of Neurological Recovery again.  About a year ago, me and my parents had a consolation with them on the phone.  They are in Florida, and they use an arthritis prescription to treat people after a stroke.  After the consultation on the phone, I was all set to do it.  My parents were uneasy, and I couldn’t do it without their support.  I saw the videos, I saw the people who had aphasia get better.  But it is an off-use of the drug, and I had the money a year ago, but I don’t have it now.  All of that aside, if it worked for me, I would be instantly better. I would talk without issue.  Can you imagine that? I would talk without any issue. Oh God, I can imagine that.  I can imagine talking again. 

But how would I do it?  I could probably raise the money, after all my background is in fundraising. But how will I get down there?  Sean is like my parents, uneasy about it.  Could I do this alone?  Without Sean, without my parents?  I don’t know.  Could I wait a year and do it three years after my stroke?  I don’t know. I will save it for another day.  But the Institute of Neurological Recovery is on my mind.

I went to my second meeting at the Stroke Survivor’s Group.  This time, we had 2 social workers to lead the group.   When it was my chance to speak, I said I would be interested in meeting younger generations of stroke survivors at North Shore Huntington Hospital.  She loved it.  She was talking to her director.  She took me name, email, and phone number.  She said it may take time, but she would get it to her director, and we will see.  I must be crazy, but I am excited about it.  I think I will start by capturing an interest.  I will start a group in Facebook entitled “Long Island Younger Generation of Stroke Survivors” or something like that.  I will make up flyers and put them at the hospital and at the neurologist’s office, if they will let me.  I think they will let me.  If we can’t be at the hospital, we get to go out for happy hour or something like that.  It will be a positive place to talk about life and issues with my career.  When it snows, I get happy. Then I think about skiing and I get sad because I can’t ski anymore.  I can’t ski anymore because of the issue with my leg.  I will go to a group like this one, I can say that here.  There is a consortium of people in the Long Island area who will need a group. 

Anyone out there who is from Long Island and you need a group, email me.

See, I am getting better.  Maybe the happiness pills are working. Maybe it’s taking the day to deal with me. Maybe it’s Mark Cronin who just told me yesterday, “Be happy that you are alive.”   Maybe it’s all three.  Whatever, I am getting better, or I getting closer to accepting this.  Whatever it is, I am happy on this day.   

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