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Dani's Stroke Story

Dani
Dani with baby son Grayson

Dani Clarine-Rhodes is 29 years old and stroke has already changed her life. On February 26, she gave birth to her son, Grayson, by C-section. Ten days later, on a Friday night, she experienced a sudden, extremely severe headache and a change of sensation on her left side. She also had a stiff neck, with very limited range of motion.

Because the primary symptom was her headache, and she had a history of migraines, emergency room doctors initially diagnosed her condition as a migraine. By Monday, she was back in the emergency room, finally hospitalized Monday night and by Tuesday, the doctors knew she had had a stroke. She also learned she has a rare disorder (a connective tissue disease), aggravated by hormones, that contributed to blockages in the arteries to her brain. She was LifeFlighted to Salt Lake City and spent the next week and a half in the critical care unit.

"Imagine having a new little baby, and this happens," says Clarine-Rhodes. She and her husband Tyler Rhodes live on Malmstrom Air Force Base where he is a Senior Airman. In addition to the new baby, they also share care for her three sons from a previous marriage, 9-year-old twins and a 5-year-old.

"A lot dropped on me," says Rhodes. The young couple is grateful for the help they've received. "The military has been very supportive," says Rhodes. His shift as a patrolman on base was changed to the early morning, so Dani is at her most rested while he is at work. "By the time he comes in the door, I'm done and I have to lie down," she says.

Rhodes' parents and stepfather have also been important support for the family. "My dad came to Great Falls to see the baby and got thrown into grandfatherhood while Dani was in the hospital in Salt Lake," says Rhodes.

When Dani came home, it took six weeks to learn to walk again. She spent hours and hours teaching herself to write again by outlining letters over and over on the wall.

Fatigue has been one of the biggest and most lingering recovery battles for Dani. Because of her relentless fatigue (she needed three to four naps a day), she was forced to change her major just months from her expected degree in respiratory therapy. "I couldn't be on my feet 12 hours a day; I don't have the endurance," she says. But Dani Clarine-Rhodes is nothing if not a survivor—she's back in school and has changed her goal to an accounting degree where she can hope to make her own hours.

"Now I want to be an advocate for stroke education," Dani says. She's joined a group for young stroke survivors on Facebook. Her experience and continuing recovery is a story she shares out of a sense of gratitude and in the hope the public and medical personnel will continue to learn more about stroke.

"There were miracles," she says.