efore I had my stroke at age 33 in 2012, I thought
of myself as the ideal mom. I had a job, one child
in daycare and one in kindergarten, was a wife.
I thought I could do everything. I tried to keep
the house clean; be the ideal teacher, who never
brought any work home; and be devoted 100 percent to my
husband, Curtis. You know, essentially, be Superwoman. I
had everything under control. Or so I thought.
June 6, 2012, all this came to a screeching halt. I had
a massive brainstem stroke that robbed me of the ability to
talk, walk and swallow. I was locked-in with no movement
except my eyelids. I was trapped in my body, and the only
thing to do was think. All I thought about was my husband
and my kids, ages 4 and 6 at the time. Would I ever be
Superwoman again, determined to be the best in every part
of my life? Would I be able to hold and kiss my babies?
Would my husband leave me for another woman, more able
to fulfill the role of wife and mother, the part
that I might never be able to play again?
I had six months of intensive speech,
occupational and physical therapy that
involved ICU, a sub-acute hospital, inpatient
rehab and outpatient rehab. I gained back
most of the physical abilities I had lost.
I walked with a cane, but I was thankful
I could walk at all. My speech came
back, different but at least I was able to
communicate. I re-learned how to swallow,
and believe me, I made up for lost time
when I could eat!
Then came the emotional toll the stroke
had taken on my brain…….
I was prepared for the physical part. I
was not prepared for the emotional part.
I had suffered from bouts of depression in years past
before the kids were born. (After the kids came, I always
said I didn’t have time to be depressed!) While I was in the
hospital, the doctors put me on antidepressants, expecting
a little depression after what I had been through. They
thought it was normal to experience this after the stroke.
But once I was home, I knew I was experiencing more than
depression. Uncontrollable crying and laughter were taking
over my brain daily. It was an emotional struggle to make it
through the day. I talked to my neurologist about the issue
and was finally diagnosed with pseudobulbar affect (PBA).
A combination of antidepressants and other medication
brought the PBA somewhat under control.
While my body and mind were healing, I was learning to
be a new person. It was as if the old Delanie left, and my
husband and kids had to deal with a new wife and mom.
My son often referred to me as Old Mommy and New
Learning to Be a New Person
Survivor Delanie Stephenson with husband Curtis and their kids, Katie and Alex