Kathy Bailey will never be the same because of a stroke that she had seven years ago. But some might argue that she's better now because of it. Since May is Stroke Awareness Month, we look at how one woman turned a devastating "brain attack" into a positive fight for life.
"Tonight's winner is Kathy Bailey!" That was the enthusiastic announcement at the end of a recent Toastmasters luncheon in Lubbock. But the Best Speaker Award is more than just a prize for Kathy Bailey. It's a miracle. To appreciate how far she's come, you have to go back seven years.
"I dropped my pencil, thought that was weird, so I picked it up and didn't think about it, and dropped it again!" Kathy says that was the first signal that a stroke was coming. When she stood up, she collapsed. "The lights went out in Georgia, because everything was gone," she says.
Malva Smith, a rehab counselor says, "Immediate post stroke, she was unable to talk, didn't understand what people said to her. She couldn't read, couldn't write. She had to relearn a lot of social rules and social interaction skills as well." Dr. Richard Homan, a family practitioner at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, says of Kathy's MRI after her stroke, "Normal brain tissue looks like a cauliflower. The area that's dark is all fluid as a result of the loss of brain tissue."
Kathy suffered a massive stroke when a blood clot traveled up a major artery to the brain and blocked it, so oxygen couldn't get to the left side killing the brain tissue that holds the speech center and controls the right arm and leg. But Dr. Homan says now, there must have been some neurons that were spared, so that with a lot of practice, the brain could develop new connections and short circuit around the injury."
Kathy says she is eternally grateful to Dr. Homan for pulling her through some difficult times. However, to that, Dr. Homan is quick to tell Kathy: "Doctors can heal to some degree, but it's up to the individual to have the determination to get the function back like you have, on your part, Kathy. You've done that on your own."
Others have also inspired Kathy to come back to life. For one, her mother Mary Lou Bailey has been teaching her to crochet. That's more than a loving gesture. It's been therapeutic for someone who couldn't move her left hand. And after a lot of hard work to regain the use of her right leg, Kathy says she's a better person today than the heavy smoking, hard driven career woman she was before the stroke.
She says now, "I want to go all over the world telling people to take care of their body, mind, and spirit. That's the best gift that God has given us. Now I can say, look at what I'm doing with half a brain!"
That brings us back to that Toastmasters meeting. Kathy was at the podium the day NewsChannel 11 went to the meeting. With great enthusiasm, she told the group, "If I can do all that I can do with half a brain, just think what you can do with a whole brain!" Kathy joined Toastmasters, a speakers club in which everybody votes on the best communicator. She thought it might be good medicine for her.
Cathy Flory, the area manager for Toastmasters says, "I remember the day she came. She couldn't hardly talk, much less write anything down." But today, it was announced: "the winner is Kathy Bailey."
And now you understand, that for someone who had to relearn how to live, this prize means that anything is possible.
You remember Kathy's first clue that a stroke was coming was she couldn't hold her pencil. Dr. Homan says there are other signs:
If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to seek medical attention immediately. The Lubbock Stroke Club meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 11 a.m. at the Furrs Cafeteria across from the South Plains Mall. The next meeting is May 21st.