News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Young stroke survivor seeks to be a light

“You need to back up now,” is what Alesha Goodman of Bend remembers hearing her father’s voice telling her as she headed toward the Bend Parkway after leaving work in 2019.

His voice came to her as she approached the spot where her father had died suddenly seven years earlier. Without questioning the message, she backed up and parked her car seconds before experiencing a stroke in which her body went numb from the top of her head to her toes.

When EMTs arrived, they assessed her as being dehydrated and having a panic attack. They elected to take her home rather than to the emergency room, despite her right eye being fixed to the left and her speech slurred. Her boyfriend had put her in his truck to take her to the hospital, when she experienced a second stroke.

The stroke Goodman suffered was caused by her two vertebral arteries dissecting. Dissection occurs when a tear in the artery wall allows blood to leak between layers of tissue. Those arteries, which run up either side of the cervical spine, provide the blood supply for the upper part of the spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, and posterior part of the brain. As the blood collects in the area of the dissection, it forms a clot that limits blood flow through the artery. If the clot is large enough to completely block blood flow, the result can be a stroke.

For several weeks prior to the stroke, then 34-year-old Goodman had been experiencing a burning pain at the base of her neck which was getting worse. She had a CT scan, which showed no irregularities, so she tried massage and chiropractic treatment for relief.

She decided to go ahead with plans for a nine-day deer-hunting trip where she was without cell service. She had just returned home from that outing the night before her stroke.

Goodman had several factors that may or may not have contributed to this otherwise healthy young woman’s unexpected strokes. She has a medical condition known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which is a genetic connective-tissue disease generally characterized by joint hypermobility, skin hyperextensibility, and/or tissue fragility. She has always had extremely flexible joints. The EDS quite possibly led to the spontaneous dissection of her vertebral arteries.

A car accident in 2015 caused whiplash to Goodman’s neck and she has experienced degeneration in her first and second cervical vertebrae, giving rise to cervicogenic headaches (referred pain in the head coming from the neck). Since her strokes, Goodman no longer experiences those headaches.

Whatever caused the strokes, the double artery dissection is not common, and Goodman has accepted the fact she probably will never know for sure why it happened.

Not one to accept setbacks, Goodman has vigorously worked to get back to her normal pre-stroke activities. She underwent all kinds of therapies – vision, speech, occupational, and physical. The first year post-stroke she experienced severe neurological fatigue, would forget words, “trip over her tongue,” and had difficulty staying asleep. Goodman still is dealing with those issues but says she is “getting better every day.” If she gets overly tired, her right foot has a tendency to drag.

She is working out again, running and jogging. Her stamina is improving while she remains mindful of how she is moving due to some balance issues. She works part-time at a Bend food cart lot, doing inventory, organizing, and managing supplies. She also assembles fine jewelry. She will be working some of the shows at the Les Schwab Amphitheater this summer.

Since January of this year, she has had a benefactor who has gifted her with a neuromuscular therapy program known as the Feldenkrais Method which has helped greatly. Acupuncture treatments are working well, and she continues physical therapy.

Goodman was using a walker until February 2020, when she traded it for a cane. Then in April 2020, she put down her cane. This May she has been dedicated to running a 5K every day.

Not being sidelined by her strokes is of great importance to Goodman. She is involved with Stroke Awareness Oregon in Bend, working with people who train paramedics and EMTs to be able to correctly identify stroke patients. She is also writing a book with people who have survived a stroke.

“I want to bring awareness of strokes to the public,” she explained.

Goodman is part of the Broken Brain Club, an informal gathering for young adults who are dealing with brain issues from stroke, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions. She plans to start a young stroke survivors’ group.

She has let go of “challenging the world, because it’s not worth it. I don’t want any negative energy in my life,” Goodman said. “I try to stay positive. I want to be a light in someone’s life when they need it.”

Every day is started with drawing an affirmation card and focusing on appreciations.

“I am extremely lucky,” Goodman said with gratitude. “I am not severely disabled.”

“My dad saved my life. He’s my guardian angel,” Goodman concluded.


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