Getting Back to Life, LLC

Kelli J. Smith's journey

Vertebral Artery Dissection:

I had a devastating stroke in 2009 that locked away most of my memories before the event.  I went to a chiropractor’s appointment that day and my worst fear happened, I heard a ‘pop’ sound. I had always had a fear that something may go wrong but never like this. I remembering not feeling well and asked to sit. One by one things started changing. First my eyes began to spread far apart and then I couldn’t speak. By the time my face started to sag, inside my head I was well aware that it was a stroke but I couldn’t connect that to me. I know I was taken to my local hospital via ambulance then after what seemed hours, but only minutes, I was loaded into the Medvac Helicopter and flown to a regional stroke Neuroscience hospital. I’m truly fuzzy on the details from here after. My parents and ex-husband told me about 90% of all people that have my kind of stroke normally die ‘I had to relearn most of my functions for daily living.

       My eyes are still doubled and I have a Nystagmus in both eyes that move at different speeds and effect my sight differently. Imagine the world always moving. I still have Aphasia (* Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language (typically in the left half of the brain). Individuals who experience damage to the right side of the brain may have additional difficulties beyond speech and language issues. Aphasia may causes difficulties in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, but does not affect intelligence. Individuals with aphasia may also have other problems, such as dysarthria, apraxia, or swallowing problems.  ) 

  The hardest part of my daily living is my ** Vestibular issues . These generally cause me to be sensitive to light, sound, smell as well as always feeling the world is constantly moving. A ‘foggy feeling’ is often described. I have days that I truly can’t get out of bed. Every step, word, even a thought is exhausting. Looking at me, you’d never realize I had a stroke and that is the frustrating part about this, nobody understands there is a reason why I can’t get out of bed or go out to the movies. Many people see a person not wanting to go out and assume they are lazy when in fact, in my case, I struggle some days to even smile. Moving is always a struggle for I'm trying to move while the ground under my feet feels like sand.
 Having the symptoms I do aren’t rare just unique under the circumstances of my stroke.  Losing many of my memories isn’t something I’ve personally come across but not un heard of.    The only difference with most survivors and still having their memories with learning my daily life was I had nothing to look back on to see progress. I had great support from my family and my in-laws (at the time) and they were trying to tell me how I was and it seemed foreign to me. It seemed as they were trying to 'mold' me into someone I wasn't but in fact that was 'the old me'.
The new me struggled with the connections with my children, my family and friends. I 'know them' and I know stories with them but I don't have the personal attachment you would feel when going into your memories and the warm fuzzy feeling you may get. I've often said my mind is a blank canvas.
I had many questions about feeling like a woman after my stroke. Most people, myself included, after a stroke gain weight or can't move properly. I began to ask other women how they handle the changes. Many women said they didn't have 'relations' after a stroke and that got me thinking about myself. I'm single (divorced.) and I wonder how to compensate for certain things.  The fluid movements, cleaning one self. So I began looking for books and online forums that talked about sexuality and femininity after a stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and I couldn't find any for this topic. This tends to be taboo.
Well my luck, I have 'no filter' since my stroke and I wanted to start a conversation to not only aide me but to help another woman who is struggling with the same issues.

I plan on making "Vlogs" Video blogs sharing my journey as well as a written blog and hope to hear from others about their journey. I am very passionate about this cause.

The turtle became a symbol of my recovery after my father gave me a stuffed turtle and reminded me that 'slow and steady' To this day, turtles have given me courage and strength and the daily mantra "slow and steady wins the race"

My father, sister and I all have a tattoo of a turtle on our backs. That was the greatest show of support, in part my father said he would never get one....and he got the first one and drew the tattoo I have on my back..



 6 1/2 hours of surgery to remove most of the blood clots that formed

This was taken just before my stroke

Thank goodness I can still go for a bike ride.

Before my stroke, I would ride my Bicycle about 20 Miles a day. Since my stroke I can maybe do a few miles and after that I am unable to do mostly anything for a few days. I become dizzy  and unbalanced.

 I found a bike that I can ride and that has opened my life up. When I couldn't drive, I had a standard three wheeled bike that had a basket in the back. When my younger son was going to elementary school, thank goodness it was near by,I would fold the basket down and he would sit on it. There were a network of friends that would help when I had rough days but slowly and surely, I got faster and stronger.

I'm not sure if I'll get back on a two wheeled bike again but I know there is a bike for me.


And by the way I love talking about taboo stuff