A sharp pain on the right side of her head, took Emily Tanui Korir on a journey to hell and back. In the middle of it all she mustered the courage to do her PhD while still in rehabilitation
Emily Tanui Korir easily fits the description of a walking miracle and it would be difficult for anyone to believe that just three years ago she suffered a massive stroke that almost killed her. The 41-year-old PhD holder’s life took a new course in 2012.
“One evening my husband and I were getting ready for a friend’s surprise birthday party. I was going to be the emcee. I felt a sharp headache and picked pain killers but I dropped them twice,” says Korir, whose first born, Britney Korir was seven years and her son, Bradley was eight months old.
All she recalls is her daughter asking her to stop playing around with the tablets and then everything went dark. Her husband, Bernard Tanui called an ambulance and as paramedics begun treatment the gravity of her condition hit them.
“It was a difficult time for my husband. Doctors encouraged him to talk to me but no one knew whether I would live or die. One surgeon wanted to operate on my head to stop the vein that had cracked from haemorrhaging, but a senior surgeon advised against the idea out of fear that the surgery would leave me in a vegetative state,” she said.
On the seventh day, she came out of the coma and says: “My husband was a vaguely familiar face and I opened my mouth but no words came out. I had lost my speech and was paralysed on my right side.” Korir remembers feeling helpless because her infant son who was being exclusively breastfed had a severe allergy called, Anaphalyctic, which means his lactose-tolerance was low and he couldn’t take pasteurised or powdered milk.
Luckily her cousin Janeanne Kirui who was newly-wed and three months pregnant and her husband took care of her kids for the six months she was hospitalised. A stroke, affects the brain leaving a victim’s memory stuck in the past.
In Korir’s case her memory was stuck almost 10 years in the past. She remained in the Stroke Ward for two months as doctors helped her regain her faculties again. In this period she was only able to utter one word. Korir says she is indebted to Kenyans living in Australia who rallied behind them. After two months she was referred to a neurologist and taken to a rehabilitation centre.
Her mum flew to Australia during this season to take care of her. “Had it not been for rehabilitation, I would not be the person I am today,” she says. She also gives glowing tribute to her Australian doctors who helped her pull through.
She continued taking drugs while seeing a physiotherapist, psychologist, speech pathologist, a social worker to teach her to cook and walk around the kitchen and a hydro therapist who assisted her to learn how to use water to get her senses back and gym specialist for physical fitness.
But it is her determination to get her life back on track and do things that would seem impossible that makes Korir stand out. In six months, some of her motor skills returned; she begun to remember her children and could count to three.
Korir who had received an opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Communications in Journalism degree in Australia in 1994 recalls telling her Psychologist she was going back to University to study her Masters in Business Administration.
The doctor explained the seriousness of her condition, telling her it would be years before she could do that. Emily proved everyone wrong because in eight months she could text one word on her mobile phone and was able count to 20.
“I found a school that could do online studies. I did the entry exam and passed. I didn’t tell the lady I was in rehab,” she says gleefully. At the end of 2013, Korir who has a specialised MBA in HR development sat an online three hour exam but had to come clean since she could not complete it in time because she suffered from cognitive fatigue.
The school made provisions for her to physical sit for the exams . “At around the same time I was discharged from rehab, having regained my full function. I can use my hand although it does not have any feelings,” she said.
To date she still sees her psychologist and remains on high blood pressure medication due to hypertension to avoid a relapse. But Korir is not about to sit on her laurels. She is today working towards raising awareness on the condition. For her efforts she was last week appointed the Kenya Stroke Ambassador by the Kenya Stroke Association.
This article was first features on Mediamax Network.