‘What is happening? Am I going to die?’: Mom details stroke recovery journey

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“You always hear that everything can change in a single moment. A split second can turn your world upside down and inside out. On February 26th, 2018, I experienced that life changing second first hand and my body and soul will never be the same.

My name is Liz Griffin and I am a 36-year-old mother of four. My husband Jady and I live in Austin, Texas with our children Sophie, Tait, Kevin and Ines. We pastor a church called Antioch Austin and life was going well.

I left the gym on February 26th around 8 am and headed home. I chatted with Jady in the kitchen for a few minutes before he left for work and I went to get ready for the day. As I stood in my closet about to change, I felt a strange sensation take over me. My arms weren’t doing what I wanted them to. They felt clumsy and my thoughts seemed to be in slow motion. The next thing I knew, I was collapsing onto the floor of my closet.

What is happening? I thought. I am trying to move but nothing is happening.

My right side was paralyzed. I cried out only to discover my speech was slurred, and I was unable to speak. Immediately I knew I was having a stroke. I dragged myself with my left hand out of the closet and across the bathroom to where my phone was charging. Jesus, please help me get to the phone. Don’t let me die here like this. I grabbed my phone and weakly dialed 911 with my left hand. The operator answered and that is when I realized the extent of the damage.

‘My name is Liz Griffin and I am having a stroke. I need help.’ That’s what I was trying to say but all that came out was a string of slurred sounds. After what felt like forever, she was able to dispatch an ambulance to my house.

I arrived at the ER with my right side fully paralyzed and my speech very confused. A CT scan confirmed I had a blood clot in my brain. I was having a stroke. The imaging at the hospital also revealed that in addition to having a stroke I also had two brain aneurysms and a mass on my thyroid. It was a really bad Monday.

Courtesy Liz Griffin

Jesus, I don’t know that I can handle this. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder four years prior and this was my worst nightmare. Am I going to die?

I spent most of the week in the ICU waiting for the blood clot to dissolve in my brain.

I went from a perfectly healthy person to laying in a hospital with a slew of medical problems. Numerous tests were done and it was concluded the stroke was caused from a hole in my heart called a PFO. It is a birth defect I was never aware of until it caused my stroke.

Courtesy Liz Griffin

The two brain aneurysms were completely unrelated to the stroke and were accidentally found through the imaging.

The following weekend I was moved from the ICU to a rehab hospital nearby. I spent two weeks at the rehab hospital learning how to brush my teeth, feed myself and walk again. I would lay in my hospital room wondering what would my life look like now? Would I ever be able to write my name? Walk to the mailbox? Drive my car? The answer from my doctors was…maybe.

I had to do a lot of work physically to try and regain physical abilities, but I also had to do a lot of work spiritually. Could I still have peace and hope even in the face of fear. The fear of my aneurysm rupturing or being unable to communicate well as the stroke was in a part of my communication center in the brain was always in my thoughts.

My entire life was built on a belief that God is good and yet here I am. A hobbling and exhausted version of myself who may never be ‘normal’ again.Is there hope in this darkness?

The spring continued on with a brain surgery to fix one aneurysm, a heart surgery to repair the hole in my heart and physical therapy to regain my mobility. The tumor on my thyroid was biopsied and is benign. Now it is July and my walking is fairly normal. I can drive and handwrite a little. There is one more brain surgery ahead, but my recovery is going well.

Courtesy Liz Griffin

There are moments every now and then when anxiety creeps in and causes brief moments of panic. But then I step back and realize God has brought me so far and has held my hand the whole way. I have experienced a deeper peace than ever before, and I realized that God’s ‘goodness’ isn’t about my situation but is about His character in every situation.

Courtesy Liz Griffin

The truth is that brain aneurysms are often fatal and if I hadn’t had the stroke I would never have known I had them. My stroke could have saved my life. In fact, I think it did in more ways than one. Our family is closer and stronger than ever before. My faith is deeper. I have found such a peace that is stronger than anything I’ve ever known before. The stroke did take some things, but it allowed me to gain so much more.

Courtesy Liz Griffin

I know some of you reading this are dealing with something that feels so unknown and uncertain. It feels like your future and your hope are in the balance. But take it from me. There is hope. The best is still ahead even if it doesn’t look the way you dreamed it. Your walk may have a bit of a limp and your heart may bear a few more scars but you are not broken. Your story isn’t over – perhaps the best part is just beginning.”

CourtesyLiz Griffin

This story was written by Liz Griffin, 36, of Austin, Texas.  If you’d like to follow on her journey to recovery you can find her online at www.thelizgriffin.com. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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