She suf­fered a stroke at just 17

Letl­hogonolo Modise’s life changed due to her ill­ness, but she has lived to tell the tale

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Thokozile Mn­guni

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.

TRAGEDY STRIKES

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

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