From Bad Dream to Fairy Tale, Cindy Conquers Life After a Stroke
In the fall of 2011, dancers from across the area were practicing for the annual production of the Nutcracker ballet. Cindy Gore was anxious to see her 16 year old daughter perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy, a coveted role for any ballerina. But on October 28, 2011, Cindy’s life was forever changed.
At the age of 45, Cindy survived a hemorrhagic stroke, a catastrophic medical event that could have ended her life. Cindy attributes the stroke to uncontrolled high blood pressure in combination with unhealthy lifestyle choices such as eating the wrong food, not exercising, and allowing her stress to get out of control. The stroke left her paralyzed on her left side, unable to sit in bed without assistance or care for herself. “All of the little things that adults took for granted were now out of my reach…like standing, walking, taking a shower, and tying my shoes,” said Cindy.
The stroke happened at the most inopportune time. For the elementary school teacher, school was well underway and life was filled with family events and ballet practices. After seeing her daughter dance for 10 years, Cindy feared she would miss her daughter’s performance. “How could I be in the audience in the condition I was in?” asked Cindy. “The journey back to a normal life seemed impossible.”
After receiving care in the stroke unit at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System, Cindy transferred to the CHRISTUS St. Michael Rehabilitation Hospital to begin an aggressive physical therapy program that included physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
“I remember sitting in a wheel chair at the edge of the gym for the first time. A woman standing behind me leaned down and whispered to me, ‘Just remember that no matter what they ask you to do here, you are a strong woman and you can do it,’” said Cindy. “That was the beginning of hope for me. A complete stranger telling me that something good was possible.”
In the following months when Cindy felt too exhausted to carry on, she remembered those words. “The therapists didn’t just show up and do their jobs,” she explained. “They seemed determined to perform miracles in the gym and giving up was not an option.”
After she was discharged from the rehab hospital, Cindy continued her treatment in the day rehabilitation program. Today, she has recaptured her identity as a wife, mother, and teacher.
As for the ballet, Cindy was at the Perot Theater to see her daughter dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy less than two months after her stroke. This year, she will watch her daughter’s final performances in the Nutcracker as the Snow Queen. “Thanks to all of the people at CHRISTUS, I won’t have a walker propped against the stage,” said Cindy. “But I will take extra pride in the fact that the exquisite decorations and the tiny fasteners on the Snow Queen’s tutu were sewn on by me with love, hope, and a lot of hard work in every stitch.”