Claudia's Blog #25 - Meeting a Fellow Survivor

Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano is the Happiness Hero at John’s Crazy Socks. At the age of only thirty-four, Claudia suffered a major stroke in January 2017. She 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.

At work today, I got a call from Kelly Page.  She had a stroke in August 2017.  She was one and a half years out.  She was calling for a donation and had no idea about me. In the course of the conversation, she says, “You’ll have to excuse me, I have aphasia because I had a stroke.”  I told her I had a stroke and Aphasia, too.”  I connected with her on Wednesday.  We were around the same age. She told me her story and I told her my story.  We connected. We gave each other hope for the future. I asked her if I could put her phone number in my cellphone, and if I could mention her it my blog. She said yes. 

It was good for me to talk to someone who was around my age.  She has the same issues about her job.  Well, actually, she could not return to work.  That put things in perspective.  I have a job.  It may not be my career path, but I have a job.  A good job. I am shaping my job every day.  I am the Happiness Hero. What does that mean? I oversee the donation requests, the Giving Back report, and I write this blog.  I am a Happiness Hero and that ain’t bad!

I went to my occupational therapy and physical therapy evaluations this Friday.  I told them that I got these issues when I came off the steroids.  They found that fact interesting because they’ve never heard of that.   Usually, when you go off the steroids, it’s been such a long time that there are no issues that might come up.  I probably went off steroids earlier than I should have. I didn’t like them.  They made me fat, so I came off steroids earlier them most.  

Anyway, they recommended me to come once a week, for 12 weeks, for OT and PT.   As far as my OT is concerned, they told me that they will get a brace for my hand.  It will make my fingers extended.   They told me we will do exercises to extend the fingers.  At physical therapy, I think I have a dropped foot.  They did exercises to show my right foot is up, left foot is down.  I told them that I wanted to ski again, and I want to wear heels again.  My physical therapist said, “We’ll see.”  But “we’ll see” is better than no.  So, I am going to work and try extra hard to turn that “We’ll see,” into a “yes!”

Over the past three weeks, when I think about my stroke, I didn’t cry.  Now, as far as the crying when I don’t mean to, that’s good.  But the not crying when I mean to, that’s not good.  It’s these happiness pills.  I feel more relaxed and calmer.  So that’s good.  But I feel numb.  I feel like, as far as my stroke is concerned, I feel unaffected.  That is hard.  I mean, I don’t want to feel this way all the time, but I don’t want to feel numb by it.   I don’t want to forget the stroke.  If I could speak clearly, without any sign of the stroke, and forget the stroke (which will never happen), that would be OK.  But now, I want to feelmy stroke. I want to cry and laugh. I want to be sad. I want to FEEL it. I don’t know what’s worse? The sadness or feeling numb?

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