“Through this journey, I've learned so much about myself. I always knew I was a strong person, but now I feel lucky things could have been so much worse, and best of all, I've learned to take nothing for granted." - Alex Navas
That optimism came from a 24-year-old woman who just the year previously had her life turned upside down by a stroke. Now, more than two years later, Alex’s positivity has only grown as she continues to make remarkable progress in her recovery.
In December 2012, Alex was just getting ready to go on winter break at her college in West Virginia when she was beset by a sudden and severe stroke. Fortunately, she was able to receive emergency medical treatment quickly, and it was discovered that her stroke was the result of a brain clot coupled with a congenital heart defect. Alex underwent successful surgery and treatment, but struggled with her rehabilitation in West Virginia.
After her senior year in May 2013, Alex came home to Jackson and started rehabilitating at OceanFirst Rehabilitation Center in the Star and Barry Tobias Ambulatory Campus at CentraState, and her accomplishments have been nothing short of remarkable.
“I believe the key to Alex’s rehabilitation success has always been and continues to be her positive attitude and perseverance to overcome the deficits brought on by the stroke, coupled with her ability to carry over activities and exercises provided in therapy to home,” says Jennifer Morelli, PT, DPT, Alex’s physical therapist at CentraState.
Alex’s strides in physical therapy include shedding her larger knee brace for a much smaller neuromuscular stimulating device, which helps her move her leg while walking and allows for more freedom of movement.
“Losing the big brace meant gaining my independence back,” Alex says. “The things I can do now without the brace are things I never thought I could do again.”
Since getting the new device and learning to walk with it, Alex is able to do things from moving around her house with much more ease to trekking 10 miles through Italy on a recent vacation, and her ultimate physical goal is to run a 5K to raise money for stroke awareness or diabetes.
“Based on how far Alex has come in the rehabilitation process, this is very much a realistic goal that she can achieve,” Morelli says.
Alex also sees her experiences as not just a personal hurdle to overcome, but a way to inspire others. She’s currently attending graduate school, studying to be a child life specialist, and dreams of starting a foundation for young adults who can’t afford rehabilitation therapy.
“People who had read the previous article told me I inspired them,” Alex says. “I like to use my stroke as something positive that happened to me. I am able to help and motivate others. I tell people, ‘Listen, I know it’s difficult and there will be bad days, but it’ll be OK.”‘