Stroke survivor shares message of hope

Posted at 9:01 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 13:39:24-04

CALDWELL, Idaho — May is Stroke Awareness Month, and a local woman is sharing her story of resilience and recovery after surviving a stroke. Brooke Allen was 38 years old when she suffered an ischemic stroke in September 2018.

"It was about 11 p.m. I got up and I fell down and I couldn't get up, and then I tried to talk and nothing came out. I just thought, 'oh my goodness,'" recalls Brooke.

Her husband Dan, recognizing the signs of a stroke, called 911. Brooke spent five days in the ICU before being moved, ultimately spending a little more than a month at Saint Alphonsus in Boise.

The stroke left Brooke with aphasia--an acquired communication disorder that can affect 25 to 40% of stroke patients.

"I know what I want to say, I know what's going on, it just does not get out," explains Brooke.

Since the stroke, Brooke's been a regular at physical, speech, and occupational therapy sessions. That includes her visits to Idaho State University's Meridian campus during summer where she and other clients take part in an intensive aphasia program, led by ISU students.

"They just build [up] one another, and we can't create that teaching opportunity," says Amy Hardy, a clinical professor with ISU Meridian. "We can't sit in class and show our students and pull up a PowerPoint slide. It's when they see what happens."

Hardy has been involved with the program since it began seven years ago. Clients typically come in with an assessment from local hospitals so students can better address their needs and help them set goals. A normal day includes group and individual sessions between clients and students.

While the program helps those in the community overcome language disorders, it also helps students prepare for the professional world. That means working with other students, like those studying counseling, to fully understand what it means to treat the whole patient. Counseling students normally meet with a client's trusted communication partner, i.e. a family member or friend.

"It's easy to fall into treating the very specific speech components to go along with it or those language components, but then really looking at a life participation model and how can they be safe getting through the day, how can their communication partners who are also working through things as well as the clients," explains Hardy.

For Brooke, those communication partners include her mom, her husband, and their two children, Jessica and Koehn. They not only help her with her speech, but also motivate her to stay active by walking the family dog, riding bikes, and doing yoga.

"My son is going into high school this year, and my daughter will be in middle school, so you know, I have to make sure that I'm around here for them," says Brooke.

Brooke stays active on the virtual side of things as well, connecting with fellow stroke survivors and aphasia patients through social media, even taking part in a book club. She's also a social ambassador for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Brooke says her story is all about showing those fellow survivors that their futures are bright.

"I guess I really want to make sure that I share my story, even with people that are like me, so they understand that this is not the end of the road and that this is the beginning, and really, you have to be able to know that recovery is possible. You just have to do it every day. Just get up, and do it."