Thursday, July 16, 2020

Ten years ago, on July 7, at the young age of 6, I suffered a stroke. I was eating breakfast when I spilled my cereal, stood up and stumbled and then smiled at my parents with half of my face. Thank God, although there were aftershocks, this was the only stroke I suffered. I was in miraculous condition when I walked out of the hospital, but still extremely affected. Cognitively, I was very different. In the following years, school would be impossible, socializing was a challenge and communicating emotions was difficult. At the time I did not notice anything peculiar. I was simply a 6-year-old girl trying to live life. It would take observation and conversation over many years for me to realize how truly unheard of it was for someone so young to 

suffer a stroke. I would see the looks on people’s faces when my parents told them and I would hear the things they said and the questions they asked. It confused me that people thought it was such a big deal, because I did not know anything else. I gradually realized that it was not normal, and I went through a phase where I would tell everyone about my medical history during our first few encounters. I only started asking my parents questions about it a few years ago and that’s when I became aware of how scary it is for a child to live through something so life-changing. I broke down, and I shared emotions that I did not even know I had. Ever since then, I have been asking questions and doing research. I can now say that I understand how shocking it is that I had a stroke, but I will never be able to view it as a tragedy. I do not think that is a healthy way to live life. I would be a different person if I did not have my stroke. It has also taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I would not trade for anything, including, but not limited to, the complexity of God and the complexity of life experience.

My relationship with God has definitely struggled due to my stroke. Ultimately, I have come to believe that God is more complex than simply good and bad. If God was good, then I do not think He would have put me through a stroke. If God was bad, then I would not be here. God is God, and that is the only description of Him that I am comfortable with. No adjective, or groups of adjectives, will ever be able to fully encapsulate God, due to how truly complex He is. If I did not have the stroke, I assume I would have tried to find adjectives to describe God instead of accepting His complexity.

Understanding the complexity of life experience is a value of mine. People face an infinite number of things throughout their lives, whether or not they are life-changing. When a person is conversing with another person, they are exposed to a fraction of that person and people have control over how much of themselves they disclose. This realization has helped me learn to never assume anything about another person’s life unless they tell me. Seeing other peoples’ reactions when I tell them about my stroke, and hearing other peoples’ stories, has taught me that anybody can have a shocking story. It is important to me to always bear that in mind while having conversations with people.

The fact that my stroke was a severe trauma that shocked people was something that I did not understand until much later. During my freshman year in high school, I read a book in which a young child was the victim of a terrible accident. Suddenly I saw what happened to me in the same way everybody else did—and it was very shocking. This was the first time I had a strong reaction to my medical history. It was the first time I cried about it. This spurred me to start asking questions and doing research. I have grown into accepting my medical history, and it has given me strength. A child who goes through this has to grow and mature before they appreciate the severity of it, and then come out on the other side. Viewing other people’s experiences at their own level of understanding is very valuable to me, and it has helped me appreciate the fact that children experience things differently than adults.

Thank God, I am doing well. On December 18, this past year, I received the news that I have fully recovered. There is residual weakness in the right side of my body, but that is nothing relative to what other people have been through. My artery is healed, I do not need any more MRIs and I no longer need to take aspirin, which I had been taking as a blood thinner since the day after the stroke. This, amazingly, was the most surreal news of all, as I could not remember a life without taking aspirin every day. Now that 10 years have passed, I am grateful for my health, what I have learned and the miracle of my recovery.

By Racheli Berger

Racheli Berger,16, is a rising senior at Ma’ayanot. She lives in Teaneck with her parents and four siblings, including her twin sister. Racheli loves people and hopes to study psychology and learn about the uniqueness of human beings.