A Stroke of Awareness

By Kate M.

Kate McCarron, OHSU Stroke PatientOne Friday, I felt a tingle in my leg. On Saturday, I felt tired. Sunday I went to play a soccer game and had no energy. Monday, my left side felt numb, and by Tuesday, I couldn’t move my left side at all.

I was rushed to OHSU and the doctors discovered I’d had a type of stroke: a lacunar stroke. A small blood vessel was closing, sealing off a small part in my brain, the part that controlled motion. I was in the hospital about a week.

After I got out of the hospital, I spent a lot of time recovering. Even six months after my stroke, I could only type with one hand and had problems walking. I was an athlete, and played soccer. I was in my 40s; I didn’t want to give up and not do anything.

So my doctor, Dr. Helmi Lutstep recommended a relatively new type of physical therapy called high intensity task training. I worked with Andrea Serdar, a physical therapist who’s been trained in this particular area. Thanks to high intensity task training, I can now do most of the things I couldn’t before—even things that seem as simple as carrying a coffee cup in each hand.

It took me about a year or so, but I got back to playing soccer, though sometimes I have balance issues when I make a kick. My relationship with Dr. Lutstep is more than a patient/provider relationship; I feel like they’re friends now, that I can come to them with any question.

I’ve now also run two marathons on behalf of the National Stroke Association. They reached out to me in an effort to raise awareness about women and stroke. I remember when I first started training, I would walk at the track, make sure to align my left foot with the white line, like teaching it where it needed to go.

It’s been almost five years, now. Having a stroke this young was definitely a shock. It’s inspired me to get more involved with stroke education and awareness. I’m also interested in helping expand resources and create networks for stroke survivors and their families. It’s definitely helped me appreciate things more.