Stroke victim inspires daughter and others: 'Life is what you make it'

By Amy Wilde

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 30 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

The journal Christina Hoehn kept while pregnant with daughter Cassie has become a treasure of written word. Her steady, cursive handwriting on the pages describes the joy of carrying a child, and all of the activities they would do together in the future. Little did Hoehn know that eight years later the same hands that carefully recorded the journal entries would be bound in a tight, painful, flexed position — one of the side effects of a stroke.

In 2007, then-35-year-old Hoehn suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving her unable to speak, walk, eat or write.

“I lost the memory from about three months before and three months after the stroke,” Hoehn recalls. “I do remember being at the hospital and yelling at the nurses who were trying to start my IV. The ER doctor thought it was an anxiety reaction.”

At first Hoehn was sent home, only to return two days later to the same hospital with a drooping face, lethargy and an overwhelming headache. She only wanted to sleep. Hoehn’s last words were spoken to a nurse just before she slipped into a coma. When she awoke, her ability to speak was gone.

According to strokecenter.org, 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year. The road to recovery for Hoehn has been filled with faith and hardship. She spent three years in a nursing home re-learning the basic functions that could be restored, such as walking. Yet, the desire to push forward with a smile, making the best of her new life, burned within her — same as always.

“I teach my daughter that I didn’t ask for my stroke. It is Heavenly Father's will. Grin and bear it. Cass does my hair, puts on my bra, bandages my belly and helps me in the kitchen,” Hoehn says of her now teenage daughter. “She is amazing.”

Communicating with her daughter at times can be a battle. Hoehn must type everything out on her iPad, and sometimes typing can be slow and frustrating. The iPad is Hoehn’s constant companion, and she is grateful for the technology. Without which she only has the look in her eye, and the motion of her head to indicate what so honestly runs through her mind.

“I remember one day my husband, Curtis, asked me if I wanted him to charge my iPad,” Hoehn states about the technology device that is her voice. “I screamed ‘Yes!’ by yanking open the door to the outside, then running around the house until I fell down crying. My daughter Cassie was there. I wanted her to go away until the tears were gone."

"I just wish my stroke would take a vacation,” Hoehn admits. “I cannot counsel Cassie if she has had a bad day, or tell her how to apply make-up.”

According to stroke.org, only 27 percent of women can name two of the six primary stroke symptoms.

“I want to spread the word on stroke signs. Balance, sudden change in vision, numbness of an arm or leg, sudden difficulty speaking, confusion and a severe headache,” says Hoehn, who has made it her mission to raise awareness of stroke indicators, saying that “3,200 brain cells die every second, call 911 and be fast.”

Further, the American Stroke Associations suggests that if you are near someone you think may be having a stroke, ask the following three questions:

    • Ask the person to smile.
    • Ask the person to raise both arms above his or her head.
    • Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.
It’s true her intelligence shines through in the sentences she taps out on her iPad, but even stronger is the optimistic force inspiring her daughter and those around her to rise above trial and conquer life with humor and love by living the motto, “Life is what you make it.”

Hoeh will be featured on Mormon Times TV on KSL, Easter Sunday, March 31, at 10 a.m.

Amy Wilde is a writer living in Brigham City, Utah. You can read her blog at www.amyjowilde.com, follow her on twitter at wildeatmosphere or email her at wilde.amy@gmail.com.

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