By Janee Law
Dix Hills native Stefanie Cohen is set to participate in the upcoming National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5K run/walk at Jones Beach in order to raise money for the association and raise awareness of strokes and the effects they can have on people of any age.
The 29-year-old is a prime example.
As a social worker at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital, Cohen said it wasn’t unusual for her to feel exhausted after working 12-hour shifts three days in row. But, on May 17, Cohen was taking a shower in her Manhattan apartment when she felt her legs turn to jello. Her boyfriend was at work, so Cohen was completely alone.
Cohen said she fell in the shower, but managed to crawl to her bed. Her left side was completely paralyzed, her face numb, drooped down and she slurred her words when she spoke. When her boyfriend returned and found her, he called 911.
She was soon taken to NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, still unable to lift her arm and leg, and unable to make a fist. Cohen said the emergency medical technician diagnosed her on the spot.
She suffered a stroke.
There was a blood clot in her brain, doctors discovered. They soon got her on medicine to break up the clot. That medicine is very time sensitive, she said.
“If you don’t get it in time, you don’t have as good of a chance of recovery,” Cohen said. “I’m really lucky because I got there within two hours. If I got there any later, my chances wouldn’t be as good. They saved my life.”
Doctors said Cohen suffered a cryptogenic stroke, which is a type of diagnosis given to people younger than 55 years old when there is no identifiable cause.
“They ruled out everything,” Cohen said. “My blood’s fine, and my heart’s fine. They said it was a freak thing and that they’ll probably never know what caused it.”
Cohen was also diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke, which brought the symptoms of her weakness in her face and limbs.
With estimated recovery time up to a year, Cohen has temporarily moved back to Dix Hills to live with her parents. She has been receiving speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy treatments several days a week. She’s expected to make a full recovery.
Cohen said that, before her stroke, she exercised regularly and had been making strides to get herself back to where she was.
She said the experience gave her a new perspective on life.
“I’m just grateful for everything,” she said. “You really have to stay positive and every day isn’t going to be easy, but you have to just keep going and you’ll get there at some point.”
Though she is still recovering, Cohen has begun to focus on raising awareness in order to educate people on stroke and let those who suffered from them that they’re not alone.
At the National Stroke Association’s Comeback Trail 5K run/walk, which is set to be held Oct. 22, Cohen will be joined by her family and friends under team name “Stef’s Stroke of Luck.”
Her “great support system” of family and friends has “been there for me throughout this whole thing,” Cohen said. “It’s really important to have that.”
In regards to the walk/run trail, which begins at Field 5, Cohen said he hopes to be able to make it through it all, alternating between walking and running.
“As long as I finish it, that’s all I care about,” she said.
TheNational Stroke Association provides education on strokes and programs to stroke survivors and the healthcare community. Donations can be made to the association through Cohen’s fundraising page at Bit.ly/2ezfawM. As of deadline Monday, she’s raised $12,563.
Her experience was isolating, Cohen said, but it has been made easier for her by people who have similarly suffered from strokes and reached out to her to share their stories.
She added, “I think that’s a very big part of the recovery process.”