“I had no idea what was happening. At age 35, the last thing from my mind was the fact I was having a stroke. I wasn’t a smoker, my blood pressure had always been on the low end, and I exercised regularly,” explains Kristi Longtin, stroke survivor.
Kristi spent the next three months at Altru Health System.
A Not-So-Normal Day
June 11, 2009, started as a normal day, yet Kristi wasn’t feeling 100 percent. A single mother of two, Kristi stopped to pick up her boys after work.
“They were playing baseball in my parents’ backyard. Suddenly, I couldn’t move my left arm or my left leg. When I talked, I stumbled getting my words out. My dad called 911.”
Kristi remembers most of the ambulance ride from her hometown of Grafton to Grand Forks.
“I recall ‘the headache.’ It happened right when the ambulance turned off I-29 and onto the DeMers exit,” says Kristi. “I faintly remember arriving at Altru’s emergency room. They asked me a few questions, and I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t speak! I don’t recall anything after that.”
Kristi needed immediate brain surgery. She had a hemorrhagic stroke. At age 35. A non-smoker. A runner. A vibrant, young mom.
“My active identity was lost. I used to run and lift weights. As a single mom, that was my release. Being dependent on others was hard. I had a difficult time accepting my new reality.”
Like a Second Family
Paralyzed on her left side and unable to speak, Kristi went to physical, occupational and speech therapy daily. She got to know Altru staff well and started to view them as a second family.
One such staff member who stood out to Kristi was Lynde Quirk, registered nurse. In 2009, Lynde was Kristi’s rehab nurse. Nearly seven years later, they crossed paths again: Lynde now serves as Altru’s STEMI and stroke coordinator.
“It was such an empowering feeling to see how well she was doing, and how great she looked,” explains Lynde. “Kristi was so young, and I myself was brand new to the field. It brings a smile to my face when she said I was that driving force most mornings to keep her going. Nursing is an incredible career. You can do what you love and impact a life for the better.”
Kristi continues to visit Altru regularly, seeing her primary physician, Dr. Joanne N. Gaul, and other specialists as needed.
Life Goes On
During the years following her stroke, Kristi has found her deeper purpose in life.
“It’s not about me anymore,” Kristi shares. “When I couldn’t talk, I wanted my speech back so badly so I could tell my boys that I loved them. That’s my purpose—to be a good mom and an inspiration to others. I am so blessed.”
Today, Kristi is fully able to speak again. She is partially paralyzed, with no feeling on her left side, but lives independently and continues to work full time in human resources. In December of 2015, Kristi was even able to fly to Florida to meet another young stroke survivor and one of her top inspirations, Valerie Greene.
As a stroke survivor and someone who believes everything happens for a reason, Kristi wants others to know this: Never give up. There is always hope.
Starting February 24, 2016, the Stroke Survivor Support Group hosted by Altru Health System will meet the last Wednesday of each month from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Choice Health and Fitness. Survivors, family and caregivers are invited for the opportunity to interact with other stroke survivors and experts in the field. Each month will feature speakers and group discussion. For more information, call 701.780.2379.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. It is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability. Learn more about stroke causes, risk factors and prevention.