Life after a stroke: An interesting story of Lauren Kelly

Life after a stroke: An interesting story of Lauren Kelly, as interviewed by Meghan Kirby-McFarland.

Lauren Kelly is a designer, southern California native…and as well, a stroke survivor.

Just a little over a year ago, at age 23, you had a stroke. It blew me away to learn that about you, because you seem like the picture of health now. What happened?

I was walking with my mom in Mountain View getting breakfast bagels, and then back at my apartment I started collapsing. My right side was going completely numb and my face was drooping on one side. I was conscious, but couldn’t talk – every sound was incredibly amplified, including my heartbeat. Then I was rushed to the hospital.

What were the next couple days like for you?

For the first 12 hours I wasn’t Lauren. I was just energy and only saw in pictures. I couldn’talk at all. You feel like you’re underwater and you can’t hear very well, but the inside of your body is more elevated. People would talk to me and they’d sound washed out. Then slowly I was able to make some noises.

By the next night, I could form sentences, but not fluidly. Every stroke patient gets a laminated page with 6 random words on one side, and pictures on the other. We had the baseball game on the entire time in my hospital room, and one of the words on this laminated page was baseball player. I studied that one really hard. I knew I knew it, but I was just thinking and reading in pictures.

What I was going through is “normal.” After suffering a stroke, you’re pretty engulfed in the right side of your brain. Your left side is your memory, communication, what you’ve learned.

How did this happen to someone so young and healthy?

It was a blood clot that went upstream. Turns out I was born with some holes in my heart, the size of quarters, and the wall separating the two sides of my heart was floppy (when it’s supposed to be straight and solid). If it weren’t for the stroke I might never have known about this heart issue until some day it just gave out on me. So I also needed surgery to repair my heart, and recovery from that is one of the toughest things I’ve done.

What are some things that helped you recover?

What really got me through was humor. My family is always giving each other shit – it’s always fun. That was the key in everything. I only cried once, at the lowest point – when I was told I actually had a stroke. It’s a terrifying term – I didn’t think it was possible to happen to someone at my age, and I didn’t think I’d get better.

You recently ran a half marathon, which I think is so impressive. How was that?

I was really determined last year to do a half marathon, and made that my goal on the other side of this stroke and heart ordeal.

I cried for almost half of it. I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe I’m here and doing this – I almost died twice last year and now I’m running a half marathon.”

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