She suffered a stroke at just 17
Letlhogonolo Modise’s life changed due to her illness, but she has lived to tell the tale
LIKE any other teenager, Letlhogonolo Modise (24) from Silver Lakes, east of Pretoria, was full of life and enthusiasm. But tragedy struck when she suffered a stroke at just 17 years old. She thought her life was over and that she would never realise her dreams. Letlhogonolo was born with abnormal blood vessels, but she never thought that a stroke would change her life. She survived the stroke and says it was God's grace that kept her alive.
It was seven years ago when Letlhogonolo’s life almost ended. The tragedy happened shortly after her mother, Sarah Modise, dropped her off at school, Christian Bible College, in the morning.
“I felt fine when my mother dropped me off. But I suddenly started feeling weird during choir rehearsals and it felt like something was moving in my head,” says Letlhogonolo.
“I went outside thinking maybe I needed fresh air, but this didn’t help. My friends didn’t know what to do, so they called my mother who was luckily still in the vicinity. I remember lying down on the floor with my eyes closed but I could still hear my friends talking around me trying to figure out what was wrong with me,” she says.
Letlhogonolo was rushed to hospital, where the neurologist thought it was just a stroke.
“Later an operation was performed and it was discovered that blood vessels at the back of my neck had burst,” says Letlhogonolo.
She says she was born with abnormal blood vessels, meaning that blood did not flow like it was supposed to.
Her family was in shock as they didn't expect this to happen to her at such a young age. When doctors told the family that she wasn't going to make it, it started a very emotional and uphill battle for everyone.
“I stayed in ICU for two weeks and during that time my family and friends were praying for me to get well as the doctors had told them to prepare for the worst and this scared everyone,” she says.
STAYING IN REHAB After Letlhogonolo was discharged from hospital, she was sent straight to rehab and had to use a wheelchair for three months.
“It felt like I was starting from scratch. Life had taken a totally different turn. I needed speech therapy and my memory was not functioning well so I would forget simple things like the day of the week and date. It was hard for me to eat, especially solid food. But rehab really played a huge role as my speech and occupational therapists helped me a lot. As time went by, I accepted the situation and focused on getting better,” she says.
BEATING THE ODDS
Letlhogonolo says she couldn’t do anything for herself after the stroke and had to be helped.
“I struggled a lot because my left side did not function at all. I couldn’t hold anything with my hand so I started relying heavily on my right hand.”
Another thing that helped her recover was the support groups she joined, where she engaged with other stroke survivors. The following year she decided to go back to school to finish her matric, but this was not an easy feat for her.
“I was still on crutches, my handwriting was bad and I had the challenge of forgetting things. But I insisted that I wanted to finish my matric. I did pass even though it was a struggle,” she explains.
BLESSED TO BE ALIVE
Letlhogonolo is on her way to recovery and no longer needs crutches, but is still going for biokinetic exercises (a range of movement and flexibility exercises) to work on her legs. She feels blessed to be alive, but acknowledges the effects of the illness.
“I lost a lot because of this and when I compare myself with my friends, I feel like I'm far behind. Most of them are working while I had to repeat matric. I should have a driver's licence and a job by now, but it's going to take time for me to achieve some of these things as I'm still on my way to a full recovery.”
LIVING WITH HOPE
She also had a tough time emotionally and used to shut her friends out as she was fearful of a relapse.
“I'm slowly reaching out to them. They visit me at home and these days I can even meet them in a public place, though sometimes I feel as if I don't fit in,” she says.
She had to mature very fast due to her situation and says, “I had to work on my emotions, accept the situation, focus on getting better and rebuild my life. It's not easy, but I'm able to cope with the support I have from my friends and family.
“I always become positive when I look back at how far I’ve come. At first the exercises were not easy, but today I can feel that I am getting better. It’s been seven years of hell, but with God's grace and the support from my family and friends, I’m able to pull through. It’s a long walk to recovery and I’m working on getting my balance.”
Letlhogonolo is currently studying towards a degree in marketing management through correspondence and emphasises that it has always been her dream to get a degree.
Letlhogonolo Modise is currently working on strengthening her legs
Letlhogonolo Modise went back to school after her stroke because she wanted to finish her matric