A Message of Hope and Healing:  Jeni's Story

Jeni Gleason, RN

            My passion for living a healthy life and my love of people are at the heart of my professional pursuits, which is why I am honored to have joined the incredible team at Colorado Integrative Neurology.  As a stroke survivor, I am so happy to be able to share the same hope and healing that I experienced as a patient at CIN.  The science and art of functional neurology is truly astounding in it's potential to improve the quality of lives of brain injury victims and those suffering with a multitude of other neurologic disorders.

            In June of 2014 I suffered a right medullary stroke secondary to a vertebral artery dissection, a fancy way of saying that I tore the inner layer of a small artery near the cervical spine which led to a blot clot that broke free and went to my midbrain.  I was 34 years old, highly active, halfway through nursing school, and had just met the love of my life six months prior.   My life as I knew it and hoped it would be was forever changed that day.

            When I arrived at the ER, I was incredibly dizzy, vomiting uncontrollably, had such severe nystagmus such that I could not open my eyes, and had severe progressive weakness on my right side with abnormal sensory feelings on my left side.  Multiple CT scans and MRI’s left the doctors mystified (my stroke was missed in the original imaging studies, and was not found until a neurologist was reviewing my case months later).  I was bed bound, needing the assistance of at least two adults just to transfer to a commode, and was exhausted by what seemed should be simple tasks.  My neurologists were hesitant to prognose my recovery and seemed doubtful I would ever walk again.  I spent a week hospitalized in the neurology unit and then spent another week in the inpatient rehabilitation unit.  I discharged from the hospital able to walk short distances, very ungracefully, with an assistive device.  

            The months to come of my initial recovery period were terrifying and humiliating, but despite all this I learned to allow myself to ask for and accept help, and to be totally loved and supported by my friends and family.  I also began to realize something… I was not my body.  I was much, much more than my body. And it was that inner force within me, call it soul or whatever you will, that was going to do whatever it took to become my best, healthiest self again.  

            Finding Colorado Integrative Neurology was a huge part of that journey to optimal wellness.  Last year I underwent five months of functional neurorehabilitation at CIN which nearly eliminated my residual stroke symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, balance issues, weakness, and pain.  I have since returned to doing all the things I loved to do before my stroke, and no longer take my ability to do these things for granted.  I have learned to honor and respect my body as the miraculous vehicle of my soul, so I can honestly say I feel healthier now than I ever did. 

           I now think of my stroke as the “best worst thing that ever happened to me.”  In June I celebrated my 5th stroke anniversary.  I consider myself to be very fortunate, but I also give myself a lot of credit… I have battled HARD!  Ultimately, I know I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support I received from my loved ones, or for the incredible team at Colorado Integrative Neurology.  This spring I left my career as a hospice nurse case manager to join the CIN team.  I am eternally grateful for Dr. VanWinkle and Dr. Perez, and am extremely excited to be joining this practice in their mission to help so many others who have suffered from a variety of brain injuries and neurologic disorders.