DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

Surviving A Stroke: I'm Not Normal and That's What's Cool

Stroke (CVA)

Helon Dobbins

First, A Little Intro

Hi! Some if y'all reading may have seen some of my writing before on The Odyssey or somewhere else, so if you have I'm waving enthusiastically from behind my computer at you! For those of you who don't know me, I'm Helon Dobbins and I'm currently a 22-year-old senior (wow, really?) at a small college in North Georgia called Young Harris studying to get an English and history degree before heading on to law school sometime in the near future. I'm a pretty typical 20-something millennial girl who binges Netflix shows (I'm looking at you, House of Cards) and has a serious addiction to coffee and Coca-Cola. I'm also the resident history nerd of my family and friend group and have a wealth of trivia and information to share especially about the Holocaust or my favorite President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. I also love to write fiction and non-fiction in my spare time. At first glance, I guess I seem pretty uniquely normal-ish (is that a word? If not, it is now) but I'm gonna let y'all in on a secret: I'm a stroke survivor and I may not see you when you wave at me. It's not you, it's me. Really. Let me explain...

Strokes and Kids? How?

Well, let's start with this statistic: 1 in 2,700 kids in America are born stroke survivors. Did you know that? Strokes generally are associated with older adults, but the truth is they can happen at any age even before you're born like what happened to me! I had a stroke on the right side of my brain and since the brain likes to be confusing, in general, that means my left side is affected, the condition itself is called Hemiparesis if you want to learn more. What that means is basically my hand and foot aren't as strong as my right. Usually, when people think of stroke survivors they may think of mobility issues but I speak for myself only when I say they're luckily not terrible in my case. At first glance, it might not seem like when I'm walking that you can notice anything but if you look closer you can tell that I walk differently. Like kids with Cerebral Palsy, I also wore AFOs on my left leg for a lot of my childhood and recently I've traded those in for more grown-up high wedged shoes or boots. I've done physical and occupational therapy from the ages of six months to 12 or so years old and I owe all those therapists my soul (or my first adopted dog?) for getting me to where I can live my life independently. When some people come up to me and ask how I'm doing so well for a stroke survivor I definitely always mention the years of therapy and those who contributed to it. Also, having lived like this my whole life I know nothing else so I make do with what I've got. I wasn't the most confident girl around in my earlier years and I'm really thankful confidence has become part of who I am in my more recent years and I think accepting the fact that I was just made a bit rarer (and I mean that in the best way and hope to not sound pretentious) than most people is a huge factor in that confidence.

Do You See What I See?

And the answer to the above question is.... you probably see more than I do! Don't worry, I'm not too salty... anyway, along with the Hemiparesis I have a visual impairment.  Depending on the location of the stroke that will determine what parts of your vision may be affected but sometimes stroke survivors see just fine, it's all subjective. Again I speak only on my own behalf here: I see well out of my left eye and not well out of my right. If I were to list all my visual diagnoses they would include Strabismus (had two surgeries for that too, one at two the other at 19), Nystagmus, Astigmatism, and I'm nearsighted. If you want to, look up all those terms because they'd take me forever to explain properly. So, if I don't see you when you wave at me from across campus or at the mall I swear it's not you, it's me. Also, I'm terrible with faces and recognizing others so if I don't know who you are right off the bat chances are either I'm really embarrassed AND I figure out who you are right after we say goodbye, that happens a lot when I see acquaintances I don't see often or if I see you in a different setting than I normally would. I also can't drive but now that I'm 21 that bit is actually more fun because if I chip in for gas my friends don't mind driving me home from school or if I buy food for them on occasion it makes up for my inability to be a designated driver. Again, I'm all about working with what I have!  When I was little I used to go to a center for visually impaired or blind people in Atlanta (ATL reppin' since that's my hometown...or at least that area is) and maybe I owe them my second adopted dog for teaching me more adaptive skills to use my limited vision.

So, That's My Life

And after 22 years, I am sitting at my computer in my apartment writing this. Thanks for following along as I ramble on but I hope I made you laugh or taught you something you may not have known! If you want to follow more of my adventures I've linked my Instagram, @helonoftroy, and my Twitter is @helonoftroy17! If you have anything you want to know that I left out don't be shy to ask me!

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