Brady Johnson of Belvedere, Illinois, had a stroke
on April Fools’ Day in 2004, when he was 31 years
old. Brady’s stroke was the result of an arteriovenous
malformation, a tangle of veins and arteries that he
did not know he had. After six months of headaches, a
particularly bad one sent him to the hospital. Imaging
revealed the tangled mass of veins and arteries in his brain.
Arteriovenous malformations are dangerous because
arterial blood is flowing through veins that are weaker than
arteries and can leak or break at any time, often without
warning. Brady was rushed into surgery, where he had a
stroke during the operation. The stroke took his speech and
paralyzed his right side.
After a month in the hospital, he spent three months in
an inpatient rehabilitation facility and regained his speech as
well as some mobility, though his right side is still limited.
After partial recovery he took a job with the Social Security
Administration, since he could not return to his previous
career in the military.
After his stroke, he could no longer run half marathons,
and that caused Brady to get deeply depressed. “My eating
got out of control and I gained
40 pounds in six months,” he
said. Heather, an All-American
basketball player who was
coaching college basketball and
was Brady’s fiancée at the time,
noticed what was happening.
They began to work out together,
Brady on a stationary bike and
Heather on a treadmill. They were
rigorous in their commitment, and
together they lost a combined total
of 80 pounds. “I was back to my
normal weight by July 2005, when
we finally got married,” he said.
They now have two children —
Brayden, 11, and Benjamin, 6.
“Since my stroke, my faith,
which was strong prior, has
become more solid
and eye opening,” he
said. “Doctors told
me I might stutter,
or wouldn’t be able
to see clearly, or walk, or drive or even have children. I
can say that I surprised the doctors with how much I have
Brady was determined to use his stroke for good: He
wrote a book about his experience, A Life of Commas: A
Soldier’s Story, and speaks regularly about stroke and stroke
prevention. “I tell my audiences that just because you have
had a stroke, life doesn’t have to end,” he said.
One way Brady has contributed is by enrolling in My
Research Legacy. “I want to help others of all generations,”
he said. “Signing up is simple, a questionnaire about
personal and health history, and conversations with the
researchers overseeing the project.”
With Brady’s help and the help of other stroke survivors,
there’s no telling what we’ll learn and how much we’ll
advance treatment around conditions like stroke.
Brady Johnson shares his story.
“Since my stroke, my faith, which
was strong prior, has become
more solid and eye opening.”
Survivor and advocate Brady Johnson