Lilli is a young stroke survivor − only 45 years old at the time of her stroke − who likes to keep active with her partner Constantin. “He and I go to the beaches and take walks, because I love being near the water. I can hear birds and count the number of ships in the harbour.”
They are a close couple, and Lilli relies on ‘her rock’ for support. She trusts him with her life, because in 2019, he was the one who saved it.
The couple had planned a date night: a movie at her place. Before the date, Constantin sent her a text to connect. When she didn’t respond, he followed up again by text and by phone. When she still didn’t get back to him, Constantin knew something was wrong. He called the police – who found her unconscious in her apartment. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital.
Later, Lilli would learn that an undetected congenital heart valve condition and bacterial infection had caused abscesses and swelling across her brain. This caused an aneurysm, leading to a stroke and septic shock.
Lilli spent the next three months in the hospital while the medical team addressed the infection. This was followed by three months of rehab as she learned how to walk again and eventually regained the use of her right arm and upper right side.
After she returned home, she continued to work on learning strategies to manage the physical and emotional impacts from her stroke.
“One strategy that has really stood out is being mindful. Doing some mindful breathing – helps ground me when things are super intense. It’s helped me through moments of overwhelm and anxiety.”
Another strategy that has proved helpful, is doing frequent mental and physical training, like listening to podcasts when cooking, and keeping up with Pilates, physiotherapy, and trips to the beach. “It’s not just about strengthening the body, it’s about strengthening the mind,” says Lilli.
She has zeroed in on improving her fine motor skills, practicing right hand printing and typing. She’s hopeful and excited to start exploring volunteer opportunities, and a potential career change.
As Lilli navigates her way forward, she says that her advice to others is “You’re going to hit highs and you’re going to hit lows, and it’s okay. Keep strong, don’t give up!”