FAIRFIELD — While there is no “typical” stroke victim, Angela Kirk was an unlikely candidate.
She was a 34-year-old wife and mother of two sons, 5 and 7, leading an active life.
Then Kirk had a stroke. Fortunately, help was nearby and within minutes she was in VacaValley Hospital. She spent 10 days in the intensive care unit, paralyzed and unable to speak.
One of her first post-stroke memories is being loaded into an ambulance, her medical chart on her chest and being transported to a rehabilitation facility. She wanted to ask why. She couldn’t.
Now 48, Kirk, of Fairfield, walks with a slight limp and deals with some short-term memory loss. Her youthful appearance doesn’t offer a clue to the struggle she survived.
She couldn’t speak for a month. When she started to make sounds, Kirk was encouraged to do more. She could not drive.
“I was relearning everything,” she said.
Neighbors and fellow members of Parkway Community Church pitched in with meals and transportation.
An occupational therapist took her to a stroke support group. Kirk protested the best she could. But she kept learning from others who had survived strokes. She was making progress as well.
Two years ago, she became the group’s coordinator.
On Tuesday, the New Beginnings Stroke Support Group moves its meetings to the Women’s Health Resources Center, 1860 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 100.
The center is under the guidance of Jane Prather, with NorthBay Healthcare, who also serves as the service line development director for neurovascular services and serves as co-chairwoman of its stroke committee.
Prather loves to hear success stories such as Kirk’s.
“She’s younger than I am,” Prather said. “I would be completely devastated. You don’t expect people of Angela’s age to become stroke patients.”
In the 14 years since Kirk’s stroke, the outcome for stroke patients vastly improved, particularly with early intervention.
“The sooner you treat, the better the prognosis,” Prather said.
Education has a played a key role, too. A support group is key.
“It’s invaluable,” Prather said of the information and resources one can uncover at support group meetings.
“Every stroke is serious,” Kirk said.
Prather said Kirk is the perfect person to lead New Beginnings, as she “demonstrates anyone can have a stroke.” And that recovery can be a reality.
“It’s about realizing you are not alone,” Kirk said. “You can go where people understand you.”
According to www.strokeinfo.org, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. It’s simply a matter of taking control of one’s own health, Prather said.
“It’s things you can control like diet and exercise,” she said.
Signs of a stroke include one side of the face drooping, slurred speech and the inability to keep both arms raised. If any of the signs are observed, call 911.
The New Beginnings Stroke Support Group will celebrate its new meeting location 10 a.m. Tuesday. The support group meeting will follow at 11:30 a.m.
Meetings are 10 to 11:30 a.m. the third Tuesday of the month. All stroke survivors, caregivers and family members are welcome.
For more information, call Kirk at 410-9668.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.