“My name is Amanda Porter. I am 35 years old. I’m adopted and I have a twin sister. I am a girl mom to an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old. My husband and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage this August. He is my high school sweetheart, my favorite Marine, and my hero. I am an enneagram two and my husband is an enneagram eight. Cheerleading was my main sport for 13 years. I did competitive cheer, high school cheer, and college cheer. Staying active as I became a mother of two has stayed with me. I have a history of high blood pressure with my pregnancies. My blood pressure always went back to normal after I had my girls. I never thought to check my blood pressure on a regular basis.
The world was shifting for me. March 20, 2020, was a day I will never forget. This was the beginning of the pandemic. Our nation was panicking. Toilet paper shortage, sanitizer was limited, grocery stores were running out of food, people were starting to quarantine, and places were shutting down. Did this worry me? Yes, it did. Worry is distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated. Was I scared? No. Scared is being in a state of fear, fright, or panic. The pandemic did not scare me, the stroke I was having did. I was working from home, entertaining my two girls, and watching Frozen 2 for the hundredth time (thank you, Disney+). Around noon, I was planning on getting ready and head to the store with my daughter. Her birthday was 5 days away and she wanted to pick out party decorations and cupcakes. Quality time is our love language for both of us.
I went to my bedroom to grab my phone and change out of my pajamas. I suddenly felt my right leg falling asleep. A few seconds later, my right arm and right hand fell asleep. Weird, I thought. I tried shaking it off. I realized I could not move my leg or my arm. I felt the right side of my face go numb and it started to droop. I yelled for my husband as loud as I could. ‘Allen!’ My speech was slurred. I tried yelling his name again. ‘Aaaaa’ was all I could say. At this moment I was scared, something was wrong, but I did not know what. I had no idea I was having a stroke. Allen rushed to our bedroom and found me on our bed face-down. I tried speaking to him, but my speech became worse. He was panicking. His parents live 20 minutes away from us. Allen called his mom right away. She was out running errands and was less than 10 minutes away.
I remember Allen putting a sweater on me and putting my slippers on my feet. He did not want to wait on an ambulance. We both tried to stay calm on the outside for our daughters’ protection. Inside, we were both scared. I remember Allen telling the girls he was taking me to the hospital for a check-up. Then he said Grandma was coming over. This won them over with pure joy and excitement. Allen literally had to drag me to the car. I remember his dad pulling up the moment I was in the car. I was taken to the ER.
Since this was the beginning of the pandemic, I was thinking we would be in the waiting room all day waiting to be seen. As soon as I got to the front desk and Allen explained my symptoms the staff took me in immediately. Again, I thought something was wrong with me. The nurses checked my weight and blood pressure. My blood pressure was high as a kite. 240/180.
Did you know anything over 200 is considered a stroke risk? I did not. I made it in time to receive the TPA blood clot-buster medication. I was panicking. The nurses had to bring my blood pressure down to 180/100 before I was admitted to a room. One of my dear friends (Whitney Roberts) is an ER nurse. Thankfully, she was working that day. I remember lying on the emergency bed, seeing her hug Allen, and she came and stood at my side holding my hand. I could not speak. She saw the tears coming down my face and continued to hold my hand. Never doubt the gift of friendship. I remember having to lie still because the staff was prepping me for a CT scan. I had to pee and it was the first time, I had to use a bedpan. My blood pressure came down. I was then admitted to the ICU for 5 days. 5 days I lay in the hospital bed not able to move.
Doctors confirmed I had an ischemic stroke. My CT scan confirmed it. The right side of my body was in paralysis. I had trouble speaking the first twelve hours. I experienced a couple unfriendly nurses who whispered judgmental comments about me while I lay awake at night. ‘How could someone let their blood pressure get so high?’ ‘Wear a mask now, she’s Asian.’ ‘Why isn’t she speaking yet?’ ‘I have to change her bedpan again.’ The hospital was still allowing visitors. The first 2 days, Allen made several trips home to check on our daughters and to pack toiletries and clothes. Nobody told us how long I was staying in the hospital.
Those 2 days while Allen was making trips back and forth, I was alone in my room for long periods of time. I remember a nurse trying to make me get out of bed and use the commode chair instead of the bedpan. I felt like a little normalcy was coming back with me just sitting on the chair. 2 days using a bedpan feels longer than what it was.
I remember trying to wipe myself and I fell on my face. The nurse rushed back in (I must have made a loud thud falling on my face) and pulled me back to bed. She left a bedpan by me and left so fast. I wept. I wept hard. That little part of normalcy I felt for those few seconds were taken from me within a moment’s breath. This was the lowest of the low for me. I was alone with my thoughts. I felt defeated and worthless. I could feel the enemy laughing at me. There is a spiritual battle beyond our earthly realm. I could feel the darkness trying to take over me. ‘Allen is going to leave me.’ ‘I am not worth it.’ ‘My girls will be better off without me.’ As long as you are focused on you, you will always be vulnerable to shame. God’s silence does not mean He’s abandoned me. The enemy kept shouting at me ‘failure.’ God whispered to me ‘fight.’
The neurologist came to check on me once every day. I was asked to move my leg, but I was not able to. I was asked to squeeze the doctor’s finger, but I was not able to. I was discouraged. Why is it so hard to move my finger? Why can’t I move my leg? Why did this happen to me? Allen was by my side changing my bedpan, wiping me, holding me while I cried, and comforting me.
3 days later, I got the news I was being transferred to the rehab center of the hospital. My husband was asked to leave the hospital due to this new pandemic. He fought hard and maybe yelled at a few people to stay by my side. The hospital stopped fighting and he was able to stay. I was going to need physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. The hospital did not want to release me until I could walk again.
The good news was I was getting the hell out of the ICU. The bad news was I was still in the hospital and I was going to be missing my daughter’s 7th birthday. This crushed me. The mom guilt was real and it hit me hard. All I wanted to do was go home and hold my girls. Every nurse and therapist I had were very kind and patient with me. Trying to stand for the first time was terrifying. What if I fall on my face again? Fear does not start to fade until you take the step you think you can’t. Taking the first step with my right foot was difficult. Why is this so frustrating? God whispered, ‘Fight.’ I did 3 hours of therapy a day. My best friend from college dropped everything and flew in from California to come to Oklahoma to take care of my girls for a week while I was recovering. She gave me the best gift: time.
Every day my phone was filled with texts, voicemails, messages, and videos of encouragement and prayers from my family, my community, my coworkers, friends from other parts of the world, people I’ve cheered with, and friends from elementary school through college. Every day, I gained a little strength. One of my physical therapists told me with every step I take, step with a purpose. One step I took was a step closer to going home, a step closer to holding my girls, a step closer to sleeping in my bed. I ended up walking 100 yards with a cane the last day I was in rehab. 100 yards may seem insignificant, but it was the first tiny victory I completed. I was able to use the bathroom by myself again. Another small victory. April 3, I was discharged from the hospital. I was still using a cane to walk but I was overjoyed I was going home. Hugging my girls, my best friend from college, and seeing my twin sister made me cry tears of joy.
I was surprised with a loving drive-by parade as a welcome home celebration. The drive-by lasted for 30 minutes and I cried the entire time. I completed 6 weeks of outpatient surgery. I have retaught the neurons in my brain to take my right side from 0% to 75% functionality. I have spent the last year feeling guilty and shameful. I still feel guilty for leaving my daughters. I feel guilty I was not present for my daughter’s birthday. I still get flashbacks of the ER and the judgmental faces of the ICU nurses. My word for the year is ‘rise.’ The Holy Spirit has been telling me to rise over my guilt, rise over my shame, rise over my doubts, and rise over my limitations. Our greatest public victories often come from our greatest private battles. God never stops working. We live in a broken world, but I have a God who gives the gift of grace and redemption. God’s executions will always surpass our expectations.
Here I am one year later. My blood pressure is stable. I’m working out 2-3 times a week. I’m back to doing all the fun mom activities. I have completed one full month of physical therapy at a college where numerous students work with me and are training to be physical therapists. My main goal is to run again. You have the choice to lose or win the battle in your mind. You are not a victim of your thoughts. You have the choice to give up or fight. What will you choose today? Still like air, I will rise. I am passionate about spreading encouragement to stroke survivors making a recovery. I have made many contacts with incredible stroke survivors. I am thankful I get to be a part of the stroke survivor community. Untreated blood pressure puts you at a higher risk for a stroke. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers from a stroke. Spread awareness, learn the signs of a stroke, and act F.A.S.T:
Facial Drooping. Arm Weakness. Speech Disturbance. Time to call 911.
‘And then after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in his eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, he will set you firmly in place and build you up.’—1 Peter 5:10 TPT.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Porter. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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