It was a Sunday afternoon when Beryl Kizer’s life changed forever.

I didnt really know I was having a stroke, that was the part that threw me off.

That was 2019. Now, four years later she’s welcoming me into her home with open armsbecause like so many, she has a story to tell.

I knew all the things you’re supposed to do when you think you’re having a stroke,” Kizer tells me. “You go to the mirror, you see if you can smileis it even? Can you raise your eyebrows? Is one side of your face drooping? And thats a key thing, and I had none of that.

But she says there were other signs something wasn’t right.

What I had was weakness in my left leg, and then the arm started to follow later that day.

That’s when Kizer decided to go see a doctor.

“He did a couple of tests and looked me right in the face and said, ‘you’re having a stroke, or you had a stroke’.”

One of the Lucky Ones

Though Kizer didn’t get seek care immediately when she sensed something was wrong, she walked away with fewer long-term disabilities compared to others who have suffered strokes.

Dr. Alexander Coon is Director of Endovascular and Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery at the Carondelet Neurological Institute of St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s Hospitals.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States of America,” Coon says. “But its the number one leading cause of permanent morbidity, and thats damage.

Kizer escaped without the severe damage Coon refers to, but her life has still changed forever.

I never had any cognitive issues with the stroke and I didnt have any speech issues, Kizer says. Even so, it hasn’t been easy in the five years since her stroke.

“Just getting around can be difficult, says Kizer. I opted to have surgery on my Achilles tendon to keep the foot from dropping down.

She also says she’s had a procedure aiming to fix some of the damage the stroke left behind.

I’ve had something called Vivistimit’s an implant they put in your chest and there’s a wire that goes to the Vagus nerve in your neck…it stimulates the Vagus nerve to stimulate your brain.

A Work in Progress

Between outpatient care and the work she does at home, this is Kizer’s life now.

Its a work in progress and I know I’m going to have to work at this for the rest of my life.

And the sad reality is that she isn’t alone.

“Stroke touches everyone we know. There’s no one in this city who doesnt know someone who has suffered a stroke, or someone who will have a stroke at some point in their life, says Coon.

So Kizer has learned to push through.

It happened, okay. Lets get on with it,” Kizer reflects. “Let’s see what we can do to fix it hopefully.

Her takeaway? Knowing the importance of listening to your body and seeking help immediately.

The biggest regret I have is that I didn’t just pick up the phone and dial 911.