Posted on 09/14/2016 at 02:51 PM by YMCA of Greater Des Moines
Have you seen this smile around the YMCA Healthy Living Center? LaVonne Anderson joined us in December 2013 after suffering a massive stroke earlier that year. Gary, her husband and caregiver, joins her at Y-HLC a couple times a week for land and water exercise programs, as well as the Functional Electronic Stimulation bike. Read on to learn about LaVonne’s journey.
Because I rarely get sick and have good health, I was completely surprised when I had a massive stroke on Jan. 30, 2013. My husband recognized the symptoms of slurred speech and loss of hand control and called 911 immediately.
After spending 24 hours in the emergency room, the brain bleeds caused severe swelling that pushed my brain to one side. It almost killed me but thanks to God’s grace and the wisdom of the medical team, I am here today. The stroke did not damage my speech, memory or appetite, but it did impact my motor skills on my left side. I spent two months on the rehab floor at Mercy, three months at On With Life inpatient care and went through three months of outpatient care. Needing additional therapy, I came to the YMCA.
I have had to learn to walk four times in my life. I was born with deformed knees, wore leg braces and didn’t learn to walk until age three. After the stroke, I learned to walk with the assistance of the AFO brace and cane. Then in December 2014, I broke my ankle. After a procedure involving a metal plate and 12 screws, I spent 100 days in skilled care to build back the strength to walk again.
Now that I’m back on my feet, my favorite things to do at the YMCA Healthy Living Center are the NuStep machine, walking the track, swimming and the Functional Electronic Stimulation bike, which I began using in May 2016. When I first started walking the track, I finished in 15 minutes with a wheelchair following close behind in case I could not make it. Now my fastest time is 5 minutes, 3 seconds. One day, I plan to jog — it won’t be pretty, but it will happen!
I love the atmosphere of positive energy at the Y. Everyone is friendly and offers encouragement and support. The staff are knowledgeable, professional and helpful. They empathize with and understand struggles. Each time we come we are greeted by name at the front desk and see other members we have befriended. People cheer each other on to success with a “Way to go!”
My encouragement to others would be to praise God in all circumstances, trust Him to guide you and make you strong, for He is good. He already knows what you need but He wants to hear it from you. Never give up, keep going. Set goals and do something every day to reach them. Also, take advantage of people who want to help — resources, support groups and facilities that are designed to help.
It is easy to get caught up in what you can’t do, but it is more fun and productive to focus on what you can do. I love to laugh and find whimsical moments to celebrate. Spread joy and kindness in your corner of the world. Encourage others. It only takes simple sentiments spoken from your heart. It may not seem like much but it can make a huge impact.
P.S. Cheer for the Cyclones, cheer for Iowa State Band!
Thanks so much for sharing your story, LaVonne!