During one of my “productive” bouts of checking my social media newsfeeds, I came upon a post by this awesome woman that was for families of young stroke survivors. Her post brought tears to my eyes because I am part of this flock of parents that still can “lose the wind” under my wings as I try to stay above the tough moments so that I can protect and be there for my ten year old daughter who shares the same medical mountain of being an en utero stroke survivor. It gave me chills that I was given an emotional refill of hope for my daughter’s future because of the gift of another’s triumph and courage to share their story. The mountain is never climbed alone. I read her post over and over again, knowing that her words had to be shared. May her story remind us all that our fears of the unknown are not the authors of our lives. Our story is not done. May we remember what truly matters—that only strength, hope, and love have the final say.
My name is Taylor Teal and I live in Denham Springs, Louisiana. I am 22 years old and a pediatric stroke survivor. Shortly after birth the nurse noticed I was having episodes of asphyxiation and I was tested for various conditions. After twenty-two hours it was determined I had a stroke in utero and was having seizures as a result. A CAT scan determined one third of my brain was severely damaged. Due to the amount of fluid on my brain, the doctors determined that the stroke had occurred at least 7-10 days before my birth.
My stroke caused the left side of my body to be very weak. I have limited use of my left arm or hand and I also walk with a limp. I started physical therapy at one month old and continued to do it until I was about 15 years old. Due to not fully being able to use my right arm and hand, I had struggles throughout my life and still do at times. Most of my struggles were physical tasks such as getting dressed, tying my shoes and blow-drying my hair. Some tasks I still have difficulty doing are opening things like water bottles, cutting food, picking up heavy things, and putting on jewelry.
As I got older, I taught myself how to do most everything by using one hand, like tying my shoes, dressing myself, and putting my hair in a pony-tail. Although I had struggles, my parents always found ways to help me do things my way. When I couldn’t ride a bike, they got me a tricycle. I wanted to play softball like “normal” kids, so they helped me learn to play by holding and swinging the bat with one hand. Those are a few examples.
It is important to think outside the box when it comes to figuring out how to do things, even though they may not be done the way an individual with no medical limitations would do them. I have always had high spirits and been very determined when it came to overcoming obstacles. Some negative effects on my family are that they constantly worry about the things I have a difficult time doing and how I will do certain things as I get older. A positive effect for them has been to see how strong, independent, and determined this has made me.
My experience of being a pediatric stroke survivor hasn’t always been easy, but it has made me the person I am today. I often wondered growing up “Why did this have to happen to me?” I wanted to be normal like other kids but knew I never would. I would just always remind myself that God made me this way and He did so for a reason. He knew I would be able to handle this situation and overcome so many things for which I am forever grateful. I am inspired by others I meet who are going through similar struggles in life and finding ways to thrive.
This past May I graduated college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. This has been my biggest accomplishment thus far in life. I am now working for a case management company as a support coordinator for people with special needs. I have always been extremely passionate towards individuals with special needs due to my own situation and the many years of being around others with special needs at therapy. I always knew I wanted to do something involving people with special needs and I am so thankful I am now able to do so.
My advice for individuals with special needs is to not let your situation define you, because it absolutely doesn’t. One must never give up no matter how frustrating or hard it can be at times; you can do anything you put your mind to. It is okay to be different and not “normal.” This was very hard for me to accept when I was younger. The older I got the more I realized that just because I am different, it does not mean that I am not able to do the same tasks or activities. My advice for families of those with special needs would be to never lose hope or give up on them. They need your help and support more than you know, so always try and stay positive. Even though it may not be an easy road and there will be difficult times, find the good in every situation. My advice to mainstream families would be do not treat those with special needs any different than any other individual.
Last but not least, always accept those with differences because it is okay to be different.
For more information regarding pediatric stroke, please visit: https://pediatricstrokewarriors.org/