By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Lisa Satchfield suffered migraines about once a month, and an especially intense one lasted two days. Then she became nauseous and suspected it was food poisoning.
In the shower, her left side went limp for a moment. “I thought, ‘That’s weird.’ I thought I’d pinched a nerve,” she said.
On a walk with a friend that weekend, her left hand and arm were tingling. She contacted her doctor, who’d recently seen her and said she sounded OK over the phone, telling her, “Just take it easy.”
That night, her world changed forever. “A full-blown, massive stroke,” she said.
Satchfield woke up the morning of June 2, 2007, with her left side completely numb. She couldn’t stand and was “talking gibberish.”
Her son and daughter, Brendan and Madison, who were 8 and 9 at the time, tried to comfort their 44-year-old mom. Her daughter put her mother’s head in her lap and stroked her hair. Her son cooked her a waffle.
Fortunately, her friend Sandi happened to call. “I couldn’t talk. Only one word: stroke,” Satchfield recalled. Sandi telephoned 911.
“It felt like an out of body experience, saying nothing, looking at the eyes of the paramedics. I knew it was bad,” Satchfield said.
She managed to indicate that she wanted to go to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, where she worked as a senior accounting manager. The hospital had just hired a stroke specialist.
Doctors determined she’d had the stroke six hours earlier. It was too late for the clot-buster drug tPA. (If given within 4.5 hours, the drug may improve the chances of stroke recovery.)
Satchfield remained in the hospital for four weeks, spent two months in inpatient rehabilitation and did additional outpatient physical therapy. A doctor warned she would never walk again. Satchfield was determined to prove that prediction wrong.
At one point, her sister told her: “Lisa, you can fight. You have to fight for yourself. Nobody helps you. Just you.”
“It burned inside my brain,” Satchfield said.
She pushed through rehab and set new goals. Though she’d never been a big runner before her stoke, Satchfield began to prepare for competitive races.
In 2008, Satchfield joined the American Heart Association’s Train To End Stroke, a five-month walking and running program, and in 2009 completed her first half marathon. Slowly walking the route, her time was five hours and 30 minutes, but she didn’t mind. In fact, she was elated. Since then she has become a speaker to urge others to join and support Train To End Stroke.
This month, she competed in her 19th half marathon in Surf City at Huntington Beach, her favorite event. Despite difficulty walking, she finishes each race. Crowds cheer her on.
“It’s empowering,” she said. “I don’t give up.”
Satchfield, now 53, can no longer work and continues to struggle with the lingering effects of brain damage, such as speech impairment.
To help other stroke survivors, she volunteers with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, which she calls “my family, my haven.”
Satchfield got involved in the organization’s Start Training program in Orange County. This year, she rode on a New Year’s Day Rose Parade float celebrating Union Bank’s partnership with the AHA.
“If I see a stroke survivor, I talk to them, encourage them,” she said. “I say, ‘Don’t quit. Learn symptoms and be your advocate.’ ”
Her children, now ages 16 and 17, are proud of her and realize her outcome could have been worse, she said. She enjoys time with her kids and follows advice she gives others: Smell the roses, all the time.
Photos courtesy of Lisa Satchfield