In January 2003, a bleeding stroke changed Lori Vober’s life. She was 29 years old. “I was young, very active in my career, as well as in our church, healthy, and happily married to Dainis, the man of my dreams, said Lori from her home, in Phoenix. She was living in Minnesota and had just started a new job as the office manager of her church. She was at work when her arm started feeling number and heavy.
“We called 9-1-1, and while we were waiting, my left leg went numb, and I fell out of my chair. I began slurring my words,’ she remembered. She was having trouble breathing and was unconscious by the time the ambulance arrived. Paramedics worked to save her life on the way to the hospital, where a CT scan showed an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which caused a blood vessel to burst in her brain. She underwent five hours of emergency brain surgery to stop the massive bleeding. “The amount of blood that had flooded the right side of my brain was the size of a fist.”
After the surgery, which stopped the bleeding, Lori spent the next 17 days on life support in a drug-induced coma. Doctors and nurses tried different medications to stabilize her and worked to get her blood and brain pressures under control. Lori also battled pneumonia. “My family said I was surrounded by machines, including a ventilator, and the room was kept very dark and quiet. No one was allowed to talk to me or touch me.”
When she came out of the coma, she was transferred to a regular medical unit to continue her recovery. There she confronted the deficits the hemorrhage had left behind: loss of her left side and the ability to swallow. About a month after her stroke, she underwent a successful, 10-hour surgery to remove the AVM, and she was admitted to the inpatient rehab center. “At first, all I could do was lie there while the therapists worked my muscles,” Lori said. “I was like a baby and had to start from the beginning. First, I learned to sit up and stay balanced, and then stand, and eventually walk a few steps with assistance, an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) and a cane.” In March, three weeks after the surgery, she left the hospital in a wheelchair, and she and Dainis moved in with her parents.
Just five weeks later, Dainis was laid off from his job in the airline industry. Although he quickly found another position, it required a move to Phoenix. “With my parent’s help, we sold our house and theirs, and bought two new houses in Arizona, Lori said. “Looking back, I don’t know how my family did it all, both physically and emotionally.”
In September, Lori’s brain threw the family another curveball when she developed epilepsy as a result of the scar tissue from the two surgeries. At first, the seizures were just 30-second stares, but over time they progressed to eight minute convulsive seizures. It took two years of trying different medications and battling side effects before the seizures were under control.
“Between the challenges of my disability and the epilepsy, we had no life, Lori said. “I couldn’t assist with any daily chores or activities, and social functions were out of the question. To survive, my parents and Dainis and I sold both our new homes and bought one larger one where we could all live together.”
Lori and her husband discovered an intensive neuro-therapy program at Southwest Advanced Neurological Rehabilitation (SWAN) in Phoenix. At the time, Lori was still only able to walk with assistance, an AFO and a cane. After many months of therapy, she can walk without assistive devices, and has recovered significant movement in her shoulder and considerable hand function. “I have learned so much during my time at SWAN. They instilled in me the self-confidence and tools I needed to get back to the life I had before the stroke. Thanks to them, and my own perseverance, I have made great progress. I can do household chores, and Dainis and I can now go out to dinner, go to church and get together with friends. We are even beginning to travel again.”
Lori is, indeed, fortunate. Hemorrhagic strokes are both lethal and harder to recover from than Intracerebral hemorrhages, the kind of hemorrhagic stroke Lori survived, result in death as much as half the time, and only about a fifth of those who survive can function independently. “
As each day passes, I am getting stronger, and all of our lives are getting easier,” said Lori. “We can’t get back what we have lost, but we still have each other, and that is the most important gift of all. My gratitude for my parent’s and my husband’s help, love and devotion through this journey goes beyond words. This isn’t how any of us planned for life to be, but we have all come together as a family, and a team, to get through it.
Thank you for visiting! Please click the button below to view information on my book nomination, my monthly newsletter and FREE gifts, my new books and links to order, and information on stroke awareness!