For someone whose brain exploded, Angela Wright sounds pretty great, but she admits she does still have challenges.
Now in her late 40’s, Wright, who grew up in the Cariboo, had a hemorrhagic stroke when she was just 38 years old.
“Which basically means my brain exploded,” described Wright of the life-altering incident.
Unlike ischemic strokes, which result from a blood clot blocking blood flow in the brain, she had the less common hemorrhagic stroke which results from a blood vessel bursting, creating a brain hemorrhage and blood loss.
The results are similar in there is a lack of oxygen to the brain, resulting in damage to the nerve cells.
Wright had emergency brain surgery in Vancouver, after she was transported by air ambulance from Smithers, where she had been on vacation. Unfortunately she was infected with meningitis in the hospital and then had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotics.
In all she was six weeks in the intensive care unit, two weeks in a neurology ward and nearly two months in the rehabilitation hospital.
Initially she was fully paralyzed and a doctor had told her parents she would be unlikely to walk or to live independently.
Fortunately, her right side function returned quickly, however her left side has never fully recovered, leaving her weaker on that side. She is left-handed.
But Wright was determined and she left the wheelchair behind when she was discharged from the hospital, and while her mom came and helped her out initially, she had to try and figure out how to manage.
However, when Wright looked for services and supports, she discovered the system had little to offer a survivor like herself, because unlike most victims of stroke, she was not an older man, she was a young, fit woman who lived on her own.
While the Stroke Recovery Association told her they had nothing for her, they recognized there was a gap there and they invited her to join their board to address the issue.
“That’s where all this stuff started,” explained Wright.
Over the next 10 years, she helped develop resources and advocate for her fellow stroke victims, doing peer mentorship and working with health care providers.
“It became very cathartic after awhile,” recalled Wright of her peer mentorship and presentations discussing her experience.
Since then, she said she feels there has been real change in how health care providers view stroke survivors like herself.
“Those attitudes are being reflected out in the community and that’s when you’re going to see people’s recoveries change for the better,” explained Wright.
Ten years after her stroke, Wright still has deficiencies but compensates for them and has travelled globally, even trekking in Nepal for three months.
“After a day of like eight hours hiking straight up a mountain and my body is just giving out entirely, I’m so grateful for the pain that I’m in this moment because I shouldn’t be able to do this.”
She has now been recognized for all the years of her advocacy work to help other stroke survivors by Heart & Stroke, the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recover and the Canadian Stroke Consortium.
They have awarded Wright with the Frank Nieboer Lecture. Established in 2021, the lectureship recognizes people affected by stroke who have used their personal experiences to actively improve the journey for others.
Wright will deliver a lecture at the Atlantic Canada Stroke Congress in October, in Charlottetown, P.E.I.