Stroke Survivor Embraces Post-Stroke Life and Mobility Challenges

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Julie Hyman, 51, had a stroke at age 37. At the time, she was busy juggling home, family and work, but her lifestyle was stressful in the midst of balancing everything. Like so many people, she ignored the warning signs of her stroke, feeling that she was too young to experience such a devastating event.

After her stroke, Julie felt that her life as she knew it was over. She was paralyzed on the left side and only had the use of one hand. She also had spasticity, a condition in which muscles become tight and stiff, making movement difficult or uncontrollable. "Relearning how to do simple things like buttoning my shirt were major challenges. Washing dishes, doing laundry and preparing meals were almost impossible," said Julie, a Faces of Stroke(SM) Ambassador for National Stroke Association's January mini-campaign honoring International Quality of Life Month.

Nearly 60 percent of stroke survivors experience spasticity, which significantly affects their quality of life. Spasticity is a condition in which muscles become tight and stiff, which makes movement, especially of the arms or legs, difficult or uncontrollable.

Through rehabilitation and therapy, Julie was taught to "think-plan-act" for every action she wanted to take. Recovery was slow and long and relearning how to do simple things like tying her shoes was a major challenge. Doing things around the house was out of the question.

Having a good quality of life after a stroke is an important healthcare outcome. Coping effectively with stroke-related impairments plays an integral role in the overall recovery process. Julie joined National Stroke Association's Faces of Stroke campaign to raise awareness about spasticity and advocate for a better post-stroke quality of life by being informed about all available treatments and care options for post-stroke conditions. Watch a video of Julie talking about her stroke experience and how her quality of life has improved.

With therapy and treatment, some of Julie's stroke-related problems got better, but other things, like her spasticity, did not. Julie consulted with her healthcare provider to choose the best option to deal with the pain and tightness, but the process was not easy. "After much trial and error—and through the help of my doctor—I found a treatment that works for me," said Julie. There are a number of treatments and care options for spasticity, including physical and occupational rehabilitation, stretching, oral medications, nerve block injections, surgery and Intrathecal Baclofen Pump(SM) (ITB Therapy). Read more about these options.

Feeling better, Julie once again embraces her life. Getting back to the life she once knew and improving the quality of her life have always been important to Julie. Once again, she is enjoying the things she loves most—her grandkids, family, gardening and fishing.

National Stroke Association launched the Faces of Stroke public awareness campaign in 2011 to change the public perceptions of stroke through sharing personal stories. Supplemental mini-campaigns were added in 2012 that delve into specific stroke topics, such as mobility. "Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability in the US and many stroke survivors struggle with moderate to severe disability," said Jim Baranski , the organization's chief executive officer.  "This mini-campaign affords us an opportunity, by sharing Julie and others' stories of post-stroke mobility and quality of life struggles, to raise awareness of how improvements can be made to daily life."