I was born and raised in Southern California, earned BA and MFA degrees from San Diego State University and Colorado State University, respectively, and, haphazardly through my art, began a long career in property management.
A protracted history of untreated hypertension, excessive weight, a distinct lack of exercise and stress is what, I surmise, lead to my having a stroke January 1, 1995, at the age of 43. Following the stroke, which affected my left side, I had the use of my right hand and arm only. My left side was no longer functioning at my command. To this day, I wear a brace on my left leg and have had numerous other complications over time due to the stroke.
After being released from the rehab. hospital 21 days post-stroke I began out patient therapy at Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Oakland, California. It was there I met and worked with a wonderful occupational therapist who later suggested I enroll in the SFSU Rehabilitation Engineering Technology Certificate Program. I had no idea inventing and redesigning tools and my environment to suit my needs post-stroke was/is, in broader terms, a legitimate course of study and career path. I was merely trying to make my life do-able on my terms.
My terms meant maintaining my fierce independence! Not such an easy task inasmuch as I would not have been released from the hospital had I not had a place to go where there would be people to “look after me”. I never returned to my little house or my life living alone. Instead, I moved in with my partner of 2 years. That began a very difficult and anything but happy several years for everyone in the household, myself, my partner, one 14 and one 18 year old young man. You can read more about that part of my post stroke life in my blog.
Regardless of my expectations for my new life as a stroke survivor and my keen notion that I could do it all myself, I could not. There are many lessons I have learned over time that have made life easier and much less stressful, but two in particular have saved me. One is to ask for help when I need it! That was exceptionally difficult for me as an independent diehard, but in general people you know and, especially, people you don’t know are kind and gracious when called upon to help. The other is that now darn near everything takes me longer to do. That is a frustrating and tiring fact, but this is lesson has 2 parts: I have also learned that where there is a will and I allow myself a hearty portion of patience there is usually a way!