Lives Changed: Lori Greene’s Journey with Stroke

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Welcome to the first entry in our blog series, Lives Changed, where we share the stories of those whose lives were affected by a disease and how they responded to it. We hope these stories will inspire those living with a chronic condition to realize they are not alone in their struggle. Our first story is told by 58-year-old Lori Greene from Silver Spring, Md.

It was the most normal of days—August 31, 2005. It was the third day of school for my children.

We had just come back from a vacation at the lake in Western Maryland. I woke up feeling surprisingly tired. Nevertheless I sent my 16-year-old daughter off to high school. I told my 12-year-old son, David, to walk the dog, and I’d be ready to drop him off at school by the time he got back.

I started getting dressed. The next thing I remember David was asking me why I was on the floor.

“I don’t know, David. I’m just very tired,” I said.

“Well you need to rest on the bed,” he replied, as he struggled to get me up off the floor.

He got me to my knees at the foot of the bed and asked me to put my left arm up. I’m kept trying, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t.

The next thing I knew, I heard my son saying, “My mom is on the floor, and I can’t get her up. She is also talking funny.” I asked who he was talking to. His answer: “The police, Mom. They said don’t worry; help is on the way.”

“Good Lord,” I thought. In my mind, I just needed a nap.

I heard knocks on the door and men’s voices. David called to them that the door was open and to come upstairs. The paramedics put David at ease and asked him to carry the oxygen downstairs alongside me. He proudly rode in the front seat of the ambulance.

I was taken to a local hospital, where I was informed that I had suffered a stroke, a right CVA.

“This can’t be a stroke,” I said. I was a health care lobbyist focused on health disparities, and I didn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs and wasn’t overweight—all predictors of strokes.

My doctor replied by offering me a piece of advice I’ll remember for the rest of my life: Sometimes bad stuff just happens.

I remember looking at David and saying, “You have to go to school.” But my neurologist said to me (much to David’s delight), “Lori, your son saved your life today. He gets the day off!”

I later found that I had a genetic disposition to strokes. Both of my grandparents had passed away as a result of strokes.

So I began what I call the journey down the rabbit hole. I spent several weeks in that local hospital and then in two rehab hospitals, where I received extensive physical therapy.

Altogether I was in four rehab facilities.The experience was often frustrating. I was in a wheelchair, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do.

But I was determined to walk again, and thanks to the help of a dynamic physical therapist at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., I did so within three months! I couldn’t have done it without her and the support of my family.

I soon went back to work, and I started driving again.

Today my walking isn’t perfect, but with a cane I can put one foot in front of the other and get to where I am going.

That’s also how I live every day now. I know life isn’t always easy, but I have the love of my family and the determination to live life to the fullest.

Editor’s footnote: Lori sent this additional note to us:

David is graduating from Morgan State University on May 21. He made the dean’s list, and I told him I was so proud of him. He said, “I couldn’t have done it without you, Mom.”