Author- Melynda Rackley, stroke survivor and participant in Faces of Stroke campaign.
Never did I imagine that at the age of 23 I would learn my biggest life lesson.
Becoming a stroke survivor is now on my list of accomplishments. Learning how to walk again is my biggest victory. I can remember being at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital and meeting my physical therapist, Megan Petrosky, for the first time. As a kid, I was always amazed when I saw a lighthouse on TV. I never really understood their purpose until Megan became my lighthouse at Brooks. As a new mother, being away from my daughter was the hardest part of my recovery. The post-stroke depression was almost as disabling as the physical limitations I faced.
Being hungry for knowledge about strokes, I think I read every piece of literature I was given, but one of them mentioned post-stroke depression. Each day I struggled to get past the negative feelings, trying to deal with them alone. Somehow in the middle of my world of feelings I found the strength to focus on my recovery with the help of a very determined physical therapist. I remember my first attempt at walking again. I was afraid that I would fall because of my left side weakness. Paralyzed by my fear and weighed down with depression, I looked at Megan and all I could say was, “I don’t want to fall.” It was in that moment that she became my beacon of light. She looked at me and smiled and in a reassuring voice said “Don’t worry. I’m not going to let that happen. Just look up at me and let’s walk.” In that moment I found the strength within me to believe that I could walk. On the days that I seemed a little down, she would play music during our sessions. She played “Eye of the Tiger” for me and although I didn’t love the song, I found energy in her determination to help me reach my goal of walking.
As time passed, I was able to cope with my situation better by focusing on the good even in the dark times. I focused on my accomplishments during the times when my depression would creep in, often being proud of my walking because I knew that my therapist believed in me. There is something inspiring about being able to look at someone who knew nothing about me but saw the fighter within me and believed in me.
I walk and run now because of Megan’s guidance and watchful eye mixed with my stubborn determination. On April 6, 2013, I ran in a 5k and Megan was there each step of the way from start to finish.
A lighthouse contains a beacon of light that helps to guide and/or warn ships at sea. Just like a lighthouse, Megan, along with the other staff at Brooks, helped me find my way through the fog of depression and overcome physical limitations. Some days are still a struggle, but I have learned to look for the light in each day and remember that I don’t have to fight depression alone. I smile often because now I can look into my daughter’s eyes and be the one to say “Don’t worry. I’m not going to let you fall. Just look up at me and let’s walk”.