Kathy suffered a stroke nine years ago, at age 55, after she’d been working a very stressful job to put her two kids through college.
Kathy, in blue, with her brother and his wife at their last "Stampede for Stroke" event in St. Louis
She remembers an encounter while still in the hospital that inspired her.
“This feisty little 83-year-old walks into my room and has got her hand on her hip and says, I had a stroke 3 weeks ago and I'm walking out of here. It just kind of like, hmm. If she can do that, maybe I can do that. That was kind of the point for me where I thought, okay I am just going to fight like a crazy woman.”
Some of her accomplishments over this past near-decade are pretty crazy. Once unable to sit up unassisted, she began training by walking up the 19 front steps to her house. It took 45 minutes; it was snowing; there were tears.
Kathy is not the same person she was prior to her stroke. She says she's glad the stroke forced her to change certain things about her life. "Before, I was overweight, diabetic and working at a stressful job. After work, I'd pick up dinner, and then sit on the couch all night."
After conquering 19 stairs, she continued to push the limits of her physical fitness. "I did a heart walk a couple of years ago with another stroke survivor," she said. "It took us four hours to walk one mile. The event shut down by the time we reached the finish line, but a handful of Heart Association people were waiting when we arrived. The next year, I finished in 25 minutes." After that, she completed a 12-mile walk.
Not only has Kathy fought like a crazy woman, she works to inspire others to do the same. She's started an organization to help other stroke survivors. The main message? "After stroke, realize that no matter what happens, your life isn't over," she says. She recently started a conversation group for survivors with aphasia (communication challenges) in her hometown of St. Louis. She called it Coffee Cafe-sia. We love the spirit -- and the creativity.