This guest blog was written by Kimberly Torella, a Stroke Survivor and Volunteer for the American Heart Association – Kern County Division
Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family for a delicious meal and reflect on what we’re thankful for. In October 2016, my perspective on life was changed in an instant. At 29, I survived an ischemic stroke (when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked) that paralyzed the left side of my body.
Once I knew I wouldn’t be permanently disabled, I was so grateful to have more days of my life ahead of me, even though I knew they would be challenging. I also knew I had to step back, reflect and make healthy changes. I decided to make the rest of my life the best of my life.
With a second chance at life, I intended to live the rest of my days to the fullest. Before my stroke, as a single mother, my days were filled with work, college, Cub Scout meetings, helping with school projects, cooking and cleaning while also trying to fit in vacations and social activities. Every day was jam-packed without a moment for relaxation.
After my stroke, I was determined to prioritize the important things and control unnecessary stress. I was determined to fight hard and learn to walk again. I was determined to regain feeling and movement in my left arm. And I was determined to live the rest of my life healthy so I could be there for my son. I no longer wanted to take for granted watching my son grow, activities that brought me joy and spending quality time with friends and family.
I have learned to slow way down and enjoy life, which has helped reduce my stress and my risk of having another stroke. I have taken art classes, volunteered with an animal rescue and made new friends who bring me laughter. My second chance at life may have started tragically, but it has left me happier and healthier than ever.
This Thanksgiving, ask yourself what simple changes you can make to live a healthier life — whether it’s reducing stress, walking an extra couple of miles per week, sleeping a little more at night or even laughing more. I hope you’ll join me in making the rest of your life the best of your life by making simple changes that add up to big results.
Kimberly Torella, Stroke Survivor and Volunteer for the American Heart Association – Kern County Division