“I Never Thought it Would Happen to Me”

Life for 57-year-old Lorna Rowell took a dramatic turn in November 2015. She was sitting at the computer with her husband in their Hamilton home on a video call with their son in Thunder Bay. When Lorna went to stand up, her strength suddenly left her.

Lorna Rowell

Lorna Rowell

“My body went numb on the left side and I fell down,” she recalls. “I broke my ankle and my foot in three places from the fall.”

Lorna was rushed to Hamilton General Hospital, where scans revealed that she’d suffered a stroke. A blood vessel had ruptured in her brain, causing localized bleeding into the surrounding tissue.

“I never thought it would happen to me and I didn’t even know that I had high blood pressure,” she says. “I was hoping it was just a bad case of the flu and I’d be back to normal in a week, but it was far more serious.”

A brain hemorrhage like Lorna’s is potentially deadly, as the bleeding can cause swelling and reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to parts of the brain, causing tissue damage.

“I was being prepped for surgery when it was determined that I didn’t need an operation. The bleeding seemed to stem itself, so I was lucky enough to avoid brain surgery.”

Lorna spent two weeks at Hamilton General Hospital recovering. Immediately following the stroke, she was unable to walk and had limited control over the left side of her body. For someone who was accustomed to being physically active, it was an emotionally taxing experience.

“I couldn’t wash or dress myself, and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to walk again,” she says. “Just the thought of sitting up for an extended period of time was daunting.”

After her early recovery at The General, Lorna was transferred to St. Peter’s Hospital for three months of intense therapy in the Restorative Care Unit. Working with occupational therapists and physiotherapists, she began to regain strength and functionality in the left side of her body. Within a few weeks, Lorna was able to make her way around in a wheelchair and she was regaining the use of her left leg.

“I realized that I needed to stay positive. I’d accepted what had happened to me, and every day I needed to keep moving forward and never give up.”
– Lorna Rowell

By January 2016, Lorna was able to walk using a cane. She could wash and dress herself, and sitting up for an extended period of time was no longer a concern. She was even able to walk up and down the stairs in the physiotherapy gym on her own. Lorna’s condition continues to improve with each passing day.

“I’m very pleased with my progress. This is all possible because of the amazing doctors, nurses and therapists who cared for me. Donor support is important to help facilitate programs for stroke patients like me so we can get back to living as independently as possible.”