Stroke Recovery Stories- Ella's Story
Jun 20, 2019
Stroke Recovery Stories - Ella's Story

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Ella is a personal development blogger, habit coach, motivational speaker, and stroke thriver. As someone who overcame the huge life changes that stem from having a stroke at the young age of 14, Ella pushed herself forward and used her experiences with stroke to bring awareness and positivity to the stroke community.

Her Story:

“There’s no way this is anything more than a standard migraine,” I thought while clutching my head sitting on the bathroom floor in tears.
I was confused because I never experienced headaches or migraines, yet what I was feeling in that moment felt like my head was about to explode. I decided to suck it up, so I grabbed a book from my locker and headed to my fifth period grade 9 drama class. I walked into class and immediately passed out from what I thought was simply the pain in my head. What actually happened was a malformed group of blood vessels in my cerebellum had just ruptured, and the “migraine" I felt was my brain absorbing the blood.

On that day, January 10, 2008, not even 3 months after my 14th birthday, I experienced an arteriovenous malformation rupture in my cerebellum, and 2 hemorrhagic strokes. And boy did that screw up my plans of playing soccer professionally and being a big shot lawyer.

Since the damage occurred on the left side of my cerebellum and right side of my cortex, I lost some control over the left side of my body. I also experienced balance loss, a period of short-term memory loss, a diagnosis of dysarthria, and some peripheral vision loss. Rehab consisted mostly of physiotherapy, the use of a walker (which was not fun whatsoever), and frequent appointments with a speech pathologist. And although I was 14 at the time, athletic, healthy, and gung-ho on rehabilitating, a couple years after my injury I noticed some lasting effects. “Why can’t I solve math equations as quick as I used to? Why are the passes with my left foot on the soccer field not going the direction I want them to? Why can’t my left hand grip the barbell like my right hand when I do deadlifts at the gym?” Although these effects were minor, stacked on top of each other, they began to get me down. Long story short, I spent years upon years wondering if my broken brain meant I was simply a broken person. I constantly teetered the line between feeling worthless and feeling gung-ho about recovery. Eventually my teetering became 1-sided and I couldn’t bare the self-hate anymore…

Peace

Finally, in June 2017 (brain injury awareness month in Canada) I spoke out for the first time and conducted my first independent public talk on brain injury awareness. I briefly touched on the physical effects, but most importantly I discussed the mental rehabilitation + personal development that led me to become a vibrant person again. After my injury I came to recognize the beauty of existence. And through the power of habit and a lot of hard work, I learned to retrain my brain to become the person I am today.

Here I am today, grateful for my brain injury that taught me to love my life. If you’ve ever hit rock bottom because of a brain injury, mental health, or any other experience in your life, I want you to know that with the right doses of self-care, self-development, and self-discipline, you too can retrain your brain!

Graduate

I now blog and speak on everything I’ve learned in the past 11 years of retraining my brain after my injury. I also coach others on using the power of habit to help them retrain their brains as well!
Years later, I can finally say I wake up each morning happy. I couldn’t be more grateful for the gift of my brain injury.

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We are grateful that Ella has lent her voice to the community in light of bringing positivity and acceptance to a severe neurological disorder. To keep up with her you can find her at www.ellasofia.ca or by following her socials @ellasssofia

June Lee
Clinical Manager / Physical Therapist

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May is stroke awareness month, and these stories can help bring awareness to an issue that is the leading cause of long term disability.


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