It seemed like a normal Wednesday, except Kimi Woolsey was feeling really stressed. On Sept. 4, 2019 she was rushing to get ready for an appointment when suddenly, she could not feel her legs. Kimi immediately knew something was wrong and called out to her fiancé, Paul, for help. After seeing a bright light in her right eye, she felt a severe, sharp pain in her head traveling down into her leg. Paul quickly called 911, the EMT’s arrived and her stroke survival journey began.
At first the medical team thought she had a complicated migraine, but one of them suspected a stroke. On the way to the hospital Kimi felt numbness and her face drooping, then instantly, no pain. For a moment she thought she was dying, going from pain to numbness and realizing she couldn’t move or speak. Kimi didn’t know she was having another massive stroke in transit.
Each year nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke, or “brain attack” – that’s one every 40 seconds. Of those, about 75% occur in people over age 65. However, at only 45 years old, Kimi is proof that a stroke can happen at any age.
Stroke Survival Begins for Kimi
Upon arriving at the emergency department of Renown Regional Medical Center the Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center team went into action. Kimi received a brain MRI, then was wheeled into surgery for a thrombectomy (clot removal). She was in the intensive care unit for 11 days. She remembers someone telling her, “Generally people don’t survive this magnitude of stroke.” And a doctor saying, “You are here for a reason.”
Kimi’s comeback journey began with the comprehensive care team at Renown Rehabilitation Hospital. “Literally I had the best day of my life that first day there…I was so happy because I couldn’t imagine being in a safer place with people that literally live for you,” she recalls.
During her 41 days there, her biggest milestone was being able to get out of bed and walk. For Kimi the support she felt at the rehab hospital was key to her progress, ”I still feel loved and appreciated and they’re rooting for me still and I can feel it.”
Although she left the rehab hospital on Oct. 18, 2019, she is still working on improving the left side of her body. Currently Kimi works with therapists in outpatient physical rehabilitation sessions, continuing to see improvement in both her hand and leg. Her advice to those currently in a rehab hospital setting is, “Stay as long as you can to get the most out of it and push, push, push.”
Kimi’s Stroke Survival as a Warrior
“Having a stroke is not for the faint of heart,” says Kimi. She experienced despair and felt discouraged. Many days she would ask herself, “Why am I here?” Today she proudly calls herself a stroke warrior and refuses to be a victim of her stroke.
Alongside her tenacious spirit, Kimi actively helps others on their stroke survival journey. Before her stroke she never dreamed of starting a non-profit foundation. Now, each day you’ll find her texting inspiration to others, offering advice and connecting with other struggling stroke survivors on her Facebook page, Stroke Warrior Recovery Coach.
Kimi realizes most people cannot wrap their brain around the concept of a stroke. In fact, the brain fog, physical challenges and frustration are hard to explain… unless you’ve experienced them. “You need to find your tribe,” she explains. “I have a passion for helping people through this process.” Most of all, she encourages people to keep going and never stop.
After her stroke, Kimi has a greater appreciation for her family, health and life. She is one of the patients featured in the current “Fight The Good Fight” trauma and physical rehab advertising campaign. “I wake up every day and fight,” she asserts. “Each day you have to fight for your recovery and fight for yourself.”