Stroke at 30??

Stroke at 30-something: You Can Come Back.  The Right Attitude, Therapy and Caregiver Support is Vital to Successful Rehabilitation

Stroke survivor Jessica “Jess” McNair can joke about it now—one of the reasons, in fact, she is convinced that it’s her sense of humor that helped her recover from a series of strokes this year. At 32 years old, Jessica experienced what doctors described as “cascades of multiple strokes” resulting from irregularly formed arteries in her neck. The event left the San Rafael, Calif., resident unable to walk, talk or care for herself.  The prognosis was bleak and Jess’ team of doctors predicted she had a five percent chance of living.  Her road to recovery started with a grueling schedule of occupational, speech, and physical therapy.

“I had overwhelming amounts of denial from the very beginning,” said Jess describing her first reaction to the news given to her at the hospital. Although Jess was preparing to move to London and bartending to save money, she doesn’t see herself as a victim: “I consider myself strangely pessimistic in an optimistic way.”

This is where Jess’ older sister Kate comes in.

The Caregiver’s Life is Changed

No individual or family is ever prepared to fulfill the role of a full-time caregiver. Looking back, Kate recalls that both her and Jess were overwhelmed with emotion. “We were both crying, but immediately started joking,” says Kate who feels that maintaining a good sense of humor is a necessary coping skill for everyone – but especially for stroke survivors. “When I walked into the hospital I told her that there are other ways to get a day off – you don’t have to have a stroke!”

A fulltime sales professional, wife, and expectant mother at the time, Kate knew early on that she had to deal with the situation personally. The then 34 year-old recalls the vagueness of the doctors and nurses in answering her questions, which emphasized how important it was for her to take control of the situation. Shouldering the responsibility of work and the physical demands of pregnancy, Kate now had the added role of primary caregiver to her younger sister.

Thankfully, Kate was able to rely on her husband and friends who helped deal with insurance companies, meal preparation, and physical therapy.

“There was a lot of planning. We had to plan how to watch her. It was pretty scary and the frustrations were there,” Kate remembers.

When it came to working as a team, Kate recalls Jess’ determination, “She was really determined. We would make a diary and everyday have these little goals.” This helped support the efforts of her rehab.

A Great Rehab Team

For stroke survivors, rehabilitation options depend on the severity of their stroke, their level of disability, and the intensity of rehabilitation exercises they are able to endure. The goal of rehabilitation is to improve the survivor’s function so that they can regain independence and live life without relying on a caregiver.

Upon suffering a stroke and calling the ambulance herself, Jess was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Marin General Hospital where she had two more big strokes. She was then accepted to the rehabilitation program at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC)—Davies Campus while she still had a tracheotomy. At the time, Jess couldn’t speak or make a noise. Through their sisterly-bond, Kate was the only person who could read her lips and understand her. “I guess you could refer to me as a vegetable at that point—I was not moving at all,” Jess points out. This marked the beginning of her three-month stay at CPMC’s inpatient rehabilitation facility, before being transferred to their outpatient program.

“I had three amazing people working with me—I call them my heroes,” referring to her occupational, physical, and speech therapists with whom she remains friends to this day. During her recovery, the skilled professionals got her standing up and walking again with assistive technology such as the EksoGT™, a wearable exoskeleton that helped train her body to walk with a proper gait, and an electronic stimulation machine that enabled her to relearn vocalization.  With these devices, both Jess and Kate noticed improvement, providing Jess the much needed confidence and motivation to continue her therapy.

A Time for Independence

Jess is still in recovery and has been able to regain some of her independence with the help of Kate and her army of “heroes.” The sisters, who will be separated in the upcoming months due to Kate relocating to Minneapolis, feel that this experience has brought them closer and made their relationship stronger.

“Before, we were close – we saw each other on an everyday basis, but now our bond has been reinforced. Silly arguments don’t seem to matter anymore,” mentions Jess.“I love her—she’s one of my most favorite people on earth. I feel like I’m abandoning her, so I’m going to miss her a lot, but I am confident in her progression,” Kate adds.

Jess is maintaining her positive attitude and currently focusing on regaining enough independence to be able to make the move to London.

To encourage others on their own personal comeback journeys, Jess and Kate recently participated in a podcast. The podcast is available through Connected Social Media, Ekso Bionics and iTunes.

To learn more about the advanced exoskeleton technology Jess used during rehab, visit Ekso Bionics.

This was even BETTER!

IMG_14191-1Ok…it didn’t look like that, but it was fantastic.  Since I was a hero with my vegetarian dinner on Valentines Day, I got to select a dinner WITH meat, chicken or fish.  I once again, scanned my cookbooks and selected this one:Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.39.06 PM

It took me a long time, but I finally found it.  Jill made it for me before, so I knew it was good.  And boy, was it speculator!


Make this recipe and you wife/groom/husband/boyfriend/significant other will think you are amazing.   I know...I think my wife made the best dish ever!  You have to taste it. Jill HATES salmon, so she just had the gnocchi…and it was amazing.'s+seafood+restaurant+cookbook&sprefix=mccormick%2Cstripbooks%2C197&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amccormick+%26+schmick's+seafood+restaurant+cookbookNow, I have to get on my treadmill and walk off some extra pounds. ( I will tell you about that next time.)

No more speeches after Tuesday…

I am sad to see the year end.  We had a good year with 45 speeches.  Next year I hope will be even better.

We have a lot to be thankful for:

  • Good Health.  In fact, Jill is seeing out of BOTH her eyes now.  It is amazing.
  • Fantastic Friendship.  Everywhere we went, people just seemed very warm and friendly.
  • Blessed.  We feel blessed to meet all these amazing people in our daily lives.

Does it get better than that? I don’t think so.

We are taking a few week off and we will see you in January.   In the mean time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

You are THE man!

I was racking my brain this morning trying to figure out what to do next.  I couldn’t figure out how to set my WordPress site up with Google.  I was even Googling (is that a word?) for help.

But my brain didn’t want to work. I  was suddenly struck with too many things to handle and my brain just shut down, confused. I decided to go out in my garden and just walk around. If you ever been to my garden, it takes 3 seconds to walk the grounds. So, I decided to just stand in the middle.

Bill came over to drop off plants that my wife will watch where they are gone.  If you have been reading since the beginning, you know that Bill was a MAJOR help with my wife figuring out Quicken.  And Bill was also a wizard with websites.  So I asked him for help.  It took me a while to get out the correct sentences, but he finally understood.  In less than 5 minutes, he got my site working with Google.  Bill was amazing!  He did stuff on my computer that I didn’t even know you could do.

I told Bill I would write about him BEFORE he left.  Bill…you are THE man!

Time For Jill To Speak!

Jill had a busy week!

We showed up at AM Northwest, and completed the interview. Then we went to our first Painful Blessing presentation:IMG_0330 Courtyard at Mt. Tabor.  The group was fantastic and they gave us lots of tips. Jill listened to many all of them.

The second one was two days later at Durham & Bates. I was a little nervous and I don’t know why!  I arrived early so I could hook up the system.  The projector was mounted on the ceiling and I found the remote to turn it on. I felt good at that point (a mistake) and just had to the right input. I couldn’t do it.  Their IT person showed up and HE couldn’t do it either!  He asked me if I had it on a USB drive so he can put it in his computer.   I didn’t. We were running on MAC and I didn’t think it was necessary.  Jill was going to have to give her presentation… without any slides. Can she do this?   It’s only her second time. Won’t that mess her up?

When I deliver my speech, I can’t do it without having my presentation!  My presentation has still photos and video clips thoughout which tie the whole thing together.  Plus, I get thirsty; I have time to drink during the presentation while the video played.  How can I help her with this terrible situation?

She didn’t need any help. Effortlessly, she delivered her speech, with NO presentation… flawlessly.  She was absolutely amazing!

And yes, when I got home I put Jill’s presentation on a USB so we will be prepared next time.