Stories of Care - Patients

Patient Iris-Kim with her two daughters

Recovering from a Stroke at Age 34

“I was only 34 years old. I have four kids and I was worried about how the stroke would affect my ability to be a good mother.”

Iris-Kim Maquiling from Hamilton will never forget the day she had a stroke in November 2021. She had a nagging headache and the left side of her forehead was feeling numb. Hoping that a good rest would help, Iris went to bed early.

“When I awoke the next morning, I couldn’t open my eyes, move my body or speak – no matter how hard my brain tried,” recalls Iris.

She eventually regained some control of her body and was able to walk with the assistance of her husband. However, Iris felt numb and weak throughout the right side of her body. Her husband took her to the Emergency Department at Juravinski Hospital, which is close to their home.

After a physician determined that she was probably having a stroke, Iris was transferred to Hamilton General Hospital by ambulance. A CT scan confirmed that it was a rare type of stroke caused by a clot in her left carotid artery.

“I was only 34 years old. I have four kids and I was worried about how the stroke would affect my ability to be a good mother.”

Road to recovery

Iris underwent an endovascular procedure to remove the clot. The surgical team succeeded in removing most of the blockage, but some of it broke off and travelled to her brain. A second procedure was required to remove it before any damage was caused.

“After the surgery, I began working with therapists to retrain my brain,” explains Iris. “Because of aphasia, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t read or write, and I couldn’t even remember my kids’ names.”

Iris spent a week recovering at The General before being transferred to the Regional Rehabilitation Centre. She worked with a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist to help her walk and feed herself again.

“A recreational therapist introduced painting sessions to my rehabilitation,” says Iris. “Even though I couldn’t feel every stroke of the brush, it gave me confidence as I worked to overcome my physical deficits.”

Because she is bilingual, two different speech pathologists worked with her – one to help her speak English and another to help her speak Filipino. She was thankful for the ability to access such specialized and multicultural services.

The ongoing journey

Iris was discharged on December 17, in time to enjoy the holiday season with her family.

“Returning home was important to my mental health, which I began to realize was so important to my well-being,” she says. “I continued having appointments with my therapists through Zoom, and they gave me exercises I could do at home to continue strengthening my body.”

The right half of her body is still numb, so she must be careful not to injure herself on that side – she might not even feel it if she suffered a severe cut. This whole experience has forced her to slow down and look after herself.

As her recovery continues, Iris keeps making gains that improve her quality of life. She is back to gardening, which is one of her passions, and she is able to sing with her children again.

“I’m grateful to the health care professionals who provided amazing care at Hamilton General Hospital and the Regional Rehabilitation Centre. Their compassion during every stage of my stroke and recovery has truly touched my heart. Even when I felt overwhelmed, they always helped me move forward to the next step.”

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