At a young age, I had a stroke. I had just flown back home to South Florida after graduating as a medical assistant. As soon as I landed, I experienced a crisis and went to the hospital. At the hospital, I could feel a sensation in my chin coming and going. I immediately knew what was happening to me – a stroke.
The last thing I remember is texting my mother in Jamaica I think I’m having a stroke. Every time I was hospitalized for sickle cell complications, my mother would fly to see me. I was her “miracle child,” born despite her not being able to have children. When I texted her, she immediately flew to South Florida to come see me.
This time, my mother said she knew something wasn’t right. When she got to the hospital, I was unresponsive. She needed to hold me up so I wouldn’t choke on my vomit, and she said I felt like “dead body weight.” From then on, things got much worse. I had blood clots in my brain, went into septic shock, experienced a minor heart attack, got pneumonia…. Everything that could possibly go wrong did. Eventually, I was rushed to the ICU and put in a coma and life support to stop my complications from getting worse. The doctors told my mother that they wouldn’t know how bad the damage from the stroke and all the complications to my body and my brain were until I came out of the coma.
When they finally woke me up out of the coma, I was so disoriented, and I remember hallucinating little sickle cell fetuses in the lights above me. I think that my subconscious knew something bad had happened to me because of my sickle cell. After I came out of the coma, it was like I was reborn as a baby. I had to learn how to brush my teeth, take off my clothes, walk, and talk all over again. I would feel like I was talking, but I really wasn’t. I remember arguing with myself in my head, saying things to myself like This is ridiculous. Everyone in the stroke ward would stare at me, because I was the youngest one there.
I was in the stroke ward for a total of three months. When I finally got out, I still had a long way to go to recovery. I had organ damage in so many of my organs because of sickle cell complications, and I had avascular necrosis/dead bone tissue everywhere. To this day, I can’t feel my chin, and all the nerves in my mouth are shot. I can’t drink room temperature water and can’t eat hot food. When it rains, I’m in a lot of pain. When I cry, my entire jaw tingles. I feel like a 60-year-old in a 26-year-old’s body.
However, I know that this happened to me for a reason. I want to share my story and bring hope into the lives of sickle cell warriors everywhere. My mother believes I’m her “miracle child,” and I also believe that I’m a walking testimony that when you’re given a second chance at life, you can make the most out of it. I learned that life is short, so live in the moment and enjoy the simple things. Find the good in the bad, like yin and yang.