Ooltewah resident Megan Massey was reminded of what she's overcome in less than a year's time when the story of her recovery from a stroke she suffered at the age of 25 was retold at Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation's Possibilities Luncheon.
"I thought I was going to cry," said Massey, who hadn't seen the documentary before. Most of the footage was filmed by her dad. "Looking back it was neat to see where I am now versus where I started from."
Massey, now 26, and her toddler daughter, Addison, live with her parents, Al and Melba Massey.
Her stroke on Mother's Day last year had paralyzed her right side and left her unable to speak. Doctors didn't expect her to live, but Massey walked out of Siskin after living there for one month.
"I was real wobbly and stuff but it just felt really good to walk and to know that I wasn't going to be in a wheelchair," she said. "They have weird things there. They have a shopping cart to walk with. It's real things that you really use in life, and that was what I did."
Addison visited her every day and spent the night with her on weekends. Massey's therapist took her out for dinner and a movie downtown, a gesture of friendship that also helped her ease back into the world of independence.
"I got really close to my therapist and my nurses there. It was unreal," Massey said. "You go through something like that and you see what kind of care you get. They took their time with me. They cared. I honestly feel like they cared and it wasn't just a job. They were really special."
Massey continued outpatient therapy at Siskin for another month to regain movement in her arm and fingers and her speech. Progress felt so slow, she said. "I just barely twitched my finger at first, for weeks," she said, and sentences formed in her head still came out as babble.
"It would frustrate me so bad," she said.
But her patience paid off.
"Just don't give up," she said.
Now Massey drives and cooks, "but I can't do it like I used to be able to do it. I make a mess. I'm getting my fine motor skills back," she said.
Massey said her experience at Siskin has inspired her to pursue a career in the medical field as a nurse or a physical therapist. She holds a technical degree in billing and coding and has two years of classes at Cleveland State Community College under her belt. She said she'll go back to school when she's sure she's recovered her memory and recall skills.
A wedding is also on the horizon. Massey became engaged to Jeremy Trussell on a cruise one month ago.
"He's been there for me through all this," she said. "I just want to have a good life and get it back where I was before."
On Mother's Day last year Megan Massey's parents and boyfriend called an ambulance after her migraine headache progressed to an upset stomach and then paralysis.
She said Parkridge hospital staff thought it was a case of drug overdose and sent her to a local psychiatric facility.
"It was a long night," said Massey, who couldn't talk or motion to correct the staff. "I knew what was going on. I couldn't say anything. It was like a horror story."
Massey endured a drug test whose negative results ignited action.
By the time she was taken to Memorial Hospital downtown, where she worked in the administration department, she said her brain had gone almost 12 hours without oxygen.
She was transported to Erlanger hospital, but staff didn't expect her to live.
"There was nothing they could do when I got there," she said. "They told my parents that they didn't have much hope."
Her parents signed papers for her to participate in a trial procedure called Ischemic Stroke System, created by BrainsGate and administered by Dr. Thomas Devlin, that uses electric current to open blood vessels and restore oxygen to the brain.
"There was nothing else they could do, they said," Massey said. "It kind of hurt but I did that for a week."