Upon first meeting Molly Roock, you would never know what she’s been through. Her big smile and enthusiasm for life appear to be that of a 29-year-old going through her day, as usual, taking care of her son and enjoying her job as a nursing assistant. Looking a bit closer, you might see subtle differences: her shifts are shorter than they once were, and that she can’t always find the words she’s looking for right away.
“One day I made my son pancakes, and I just kept asking my mom for ‘that brown sticky stuff,’” Molly said.
These smaller battles, like trying to find the word “syrup,” are representative of the tremendous battle Molly fought just four short months ago. It all started with a small pain in her neck.
“I woke up on Christmas day to get ready for work when I realized that my neck was hurting,” Molly says. “The next day, I woke up with a normal headache, but it wasn’t anything bad.”
Something wasn’t right
The small, average headache soon grew, and just three days later, Molly couldn’t make it to work. The pain was so bad that she came down with a fever and began to vomit. When her dad insisted on taking her to the Emergency Department at Soin Medical Center, she swore it was just a headache. When she was unable to say her birthday or sign her name, it still didn’t click. After Molly’s first CT scan, the doctor came in the room, her face as pale as a ghost, and it finally became clear:
At 29 years old, Molly’s brain was bleeding.
“Working in the emergency room, I never saw anyone younger than mid-30s that had possibly had a stroke,” Molly said. “The second I’m told I am, I immediately think, ‘That’s not how it works. I don’t smoke, I’m not unhealthy—I’m definitely one of the few it still happened to.”
Molly was transferred to Kettering Medical Center where she stayed in the intensive care unit for five days. It was there that she learned she had suffered a stroke.
Putting in the work
Her care team wasted no time starting therapy, knowing she had a long way to go. Molly would have to re-learn how to talk, how to walk, and how to function on her own.
“The first time they got me up to walk, it was almost like a car sitting there burning out. My legs kept going up and down, but they wouldn’t go forward,” Molly said of her experience in therapy. “I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, so I spent most of the time writing notes. My handwriting looked like someone in kindergarten. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t get it out. You are trapped and screaming inside your own body.”
Molly continued with speech, physical, and occupational therapy, working on re-learning her life. When it came time to attempt her first shower, she sat in the shower chair with a blank look on her face, unsure of what to do. That was the day it really hit her—how would she get back to where she was? What would she do about her son?
Her occupational therapist wrote her a Bible verse from Romans 8 that she carries with her to this day: “God is greater than the highs and lows.”
In addition to the help she received from hospital staff, Molly was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she received from her family, friends, and co-workers.
“They have all done more for me that I could ever imagine, and it still makes me cry thinking back about their support,” Molly says.
After a 17-day hospital stay, Molly began outpatient therapy at the NeuroRehab and Balance center to prepare herself to go back to work by improving her endurance. She continues to attend speech therapy.
A new normal
Four months after her stroke, Molly has returned to work, slowly building to full shifts. The biggest thing she’s taken away from her experience is learning to listen to her body.
“I never had the classic symptoms, and I was always fairly healthy,” Molly says. “If something in your gut is telling you something is wrong, it’s time to listen to your body.”
Moving forward, Molly would like to continue to do what she can to raise awareness of what she’s been through.
“I want to be an advocate for this,” she said. “It’s not something you see—a 29-year-old having a stroke, surviving, and getting back to 80% after four months. I worked my butt off, and I want to do what I can to help.”
Know the signs of a stroke so you can act FAST: Face drooping, Arm numbness, Speech slurred, Time to call 911.