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‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel’ – Marco’s story

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Marco

“I survived a stroke in 2008, so it’s been about 14 years,” American Marco Guzmán tells Stroke Rehab Times.

“There have been times that it was really challenging. And other times it has been kind of a blessing, when I really think about it.

“I was 27 years old. Like most people, I though strokes were just an old people thing. But I’ve since done my homework and found out that it can happen at any age, even in the womb.”

Marco was not living the best lifestyle at the time. He was doing all the ‘typical young person stuff’ – running around, getting into trouble. Nothing serious, just partying and having fun with friends.

Marco would suffer an ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke. His doctors said the clot had formed around 10 days before he got to the hospital.

He remembers the first signs that something was wrong.

“I woke up one morning with a headache, so I popped a couple of ibuprofen and I felt fine. I was taking two or three ibuprofen every day for a week or so when I started feeling awful.

“There were a couple of incidents where I was driving but had to pull over to be sick or let someone else take the wheel.

“One night I met up with a few friends and we partied pretty hard. The following morning, my speech was a bit slurred. No one else could tell but I could.

“When I went to put on my socks, I was slumping to my left and my mind felt really foggy. I figured it was just a hangover, but iit lasted way too long.”

Marco spent days just laying down on his bed. Eventually, his mother came in to check on him.

He brushed her off and said it was fine. Thankfully, she called Marco’s aunt, a nurse, who stopped by and said that Marco should go to hospital in case of a stroke.

Unfortunately, as Marco had been laid off two weeks before being sent to hospital, he had no healthcare insurance.

“That’s the messed up thing about American healthcare. Even though I went in sick, they wouldn’t do anything to keep me from being disabled at 27-years-old. But once you do become disabled, you do at least get Medicare.”

Once Marco had been stabilised, he was sent to Long Beach for rehab where he stayed for five or six weeks before being sent home.

Things were great for about a year-and-a-half. Marco was going to outpatient rehab, which was a challenge as his body was completely different.

Eventually, they wouldn’t do any more for him and Marco fell into a severe depression that lasted for about four-and-a-half years.

“It got to the last quarter of 2014 and I just finally got up and said, you know, I’m going to go for a walk even though I couldn’t really walk that well.

“I felt great, so decided to keep doing it and it just snowballed from there.

“I started going to an adaptive gym. Everyone there was in a wheelchair or had a walker but I felt that I was it a much better position. I should be in a regular gym. So I made that my goal and I got there.”

Now Marco is living a physically active lifestyle and has a job in financial services.

He can raise his left arm and pull pretty well, but can’t push that hard. Meanwhile, his left leg is maybe 80 per cent as strong as it had been before the stroke.

“Having the stroke was probably in hindsight, the best thing that could have happened at that point in my life because like I said, I wasn’t living a good life.

“I was partying too much. Just being so irresponsible and just not doing right for myself.

“Right now, I’m just living my best life. I live with my mother, but it is what it is. I wouldn’t be comfortable living alone right now.

“Remember – there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is not a train.

“I don’t think I ever considered suicide but, if I’m honest, there were times when I didn’t care if I died or not.

“But setting those goals to get to a regular gym and walk a mile in 65 minutes, that really helped. I’m now down to 25 minutes.”

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