Magazine article Essence

How I Survived a Stroke

Magazine article Essence

How I Survived a Stroke

Article excerpt


After Elizabeth Gates suffered a stroke in 2010, doctors told her she would never speak again. She set out to heal herself holistically and used food as medicine. Here the 34-year-old tells her story of facing death and choosing life.

I was 28 when I had a massive ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot. It happened while I was sleeping at a friend's house for her bachelorette party. The night before, I'd drunk alcohol and smoked weed. I woke up tired and restless and had a stomachache. I thought I was hung over. When I went to the bathroom, I saw my face was paralyzed on the right side, and I knew something was wrong. I still tried to act as if everything was fine, but my friends took me to the hospital.

At the hospital I started to worry. First doctors thought I had a bad reaction to something I'd eaten. (Days later they would say I suffered a stroke that may have been caused by blunt force trauma to the back of my neck.) The doctor on call then told me to "sleep it off" and I didn't argue. I was admitted to the facility, and the staff let me sleep for nearly eight hours. I was grateful to see my father, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., when I woke up. He handed me a sheet of paper and a pen and said, "If you can't tell me what happened, write it." All I could draw was a small circle. That's when I realized I had lost the ability to speak, read and write. I broke down and cried.

After a little over a week in the stroke unit, I was released from the hospital. Doctors told my parents that I would never talk again. Instead of accepting that prognosis, I worked to heal by changing my diet to mainly raw food, fresh juices from beets, omega-3 liquid fats and herbs, and by fasting. I stopped taking pharmaceutical and recreational drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

Weeks after my stroke, I went back to the hospital for a checkup. My neurologist was shocked that I could speak and was amazed at my progress. When I could read again, I studied food as medicine and holistic healing. I left my job as a correspondent, went to school for food science and Ayurvedic medicine and became a certified holistic health practitioner. Now I own a small company called Insanely Centered, where I treat illness with food. Spirituality also played a big part in my recovery. I was baptized on the Sunday after my thirtieth birthday.

The only lingering effect I have from the stroke is alexia-word blindness-when I'm stressed or tired. After years of suffering from depression and abusing drugs and alcohol, I'm happier and healthier than I've ever been. To monitor my health, I get MRI testing with a neurologist once a year and try hard to stick to my lifestyle and dietary regimen. If I stray. I notice the consequences on my body immediately.

In my new book, Mindful Eating, out this fall, I share with women who have overcome a stroke or any health challenge to trust your second brain-your gut. Demand that your doctor hears you loud and clear. You are always in control, no matter what obstacle you face.

"Demand that your doctor heard you loud and clear. -ELIZABETH GATES"


In 2002 Tamika Quinn survived two strokes and a pulmonary embolism. Here's how the now 42-year-old widowed mother of three beat the odds.

Ten days after giving birth to my third child, I woke up with the worst migraine of my life. At the insistence of my mom, I went to an outpatient clinic. During my pregnancy I had developed preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure. I have a family history of hypertension, and my blood pressure remained uncontrolled after my daughter was born. Since I had preeclampsia and a history of migraines, the doctor dismissed my warning signs and sent me home.

A couple hours later I still had a headache, I started speaking incoherently and my vision blurred. I felt as if I was going to die. My husband rushed me to the emergency room. …

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