On Nov. 2, 2011, Liz Hinz had a hemorrhagic stroke while still in labor. It severely damaged the left side of her body, affecting her speech, her left arm and her ability to walk.

STRONGER THAN YESTERDAY: “Every day is a good day as far as I’m concerned, as long as I wake up on the right side of the grass.” says Hinz. Photos: Stroke Smart

“I felt very helpless at first,” she says. “You have all these expectations of what motherhood is going to be like and then suddenly you are not capable of doing the things that you want to do.”

The risk factors

Hinz, 37, of Kalamazoo, MI, spent several weeks in ICU at the hospital before being transferred to a rehabilitation center and returning home two days after Christmas.  

“High blood pressure does run in my family and I had pregnancy-induced hypertension,” she recalls. Hypertension is among the risk factors for hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13 percent of all strokes, yet are responsible for more than 30 percent of all stroke deaths.

Hemorrhagic strokes have a sudden onset of symptoms depending on the location of the break and amount of bleeding in the brain. Symptoms can include partial or total loss of consciousness, vomiting or severe nausea when combined with other symptoms, sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg—especially on one side of the body—and sudden severe headache.

“‘I use the word ‘stroke renewal’ over ‘recovery’ because recovery indicates that everything will go back to the way it was.’”

Limiting the damage

Immediate medical attention is extremely important and starts with a CT scan or MRI to determine the type of stroke and the area of the brain that is affected. Treatment involves a variety of medical and surgical techniques.

In cases when high blood pressure is the cause, doctors try to reduce the blood pressure and address the swelling that often builds up inside the head. In some cases, surgery may be needed to limit the damage to brain cells.

In Hinz’s case, it helped that she already was in a hospital and her husband, Matt, recognized immediately that something was wrong. Today, she walks with a limp and her left arm is non-functional. She talks about the signs of stroke to all willing to listen, and also writes a blog.

“This whole experience has awakened me to how amazing life is and I think I’m a better parent and better person as a result,” says Hinz. “I use the word ‘stroke renewal’ over ‘recovery’ because recovery indicates that everything will go back to the way it was.

“And that’s just not true,” she continues, adding. “I don’t think I want that. Every day is a good day as far as I’m concerned, as long as I wake up on the right side of the grass.”