29-year-old woman survives stroke in two areas of the brain.

29-year-old woman survives stroke in two areas of the brain.

Overcoming Challenges: A Stroke Survivor’s Journey of Resilience


After a night of partying, 29-year-old Bethany Moeddel woke up feeling nauseous and had a pounding headache. Assuming it was just a typical hangover, she pushed herself to get through the day, as it was an important occasion – her boyfriend’s younger brother’s first communion. However, the ill feeling persisted, and fearing she might vomit in church, Bethany left and sat in her car, with the door open due to the heat.

Little did she know that this decision would change her life forever.

Bethany’s next memory is of hearing a paramedic’s voice asking if she had a living will. Surprised by the question, she inquired if she was going to die. The paramedic couldn’t provide a certain answer, which only exacerbated Bethany’s anxiety. Two days later, she regained consciousness in a hospital intensive care unit, unable to move her left side. Her best friend was by her side, explaining that she had suffered two strokes, both on the right side of her brain, caused by blood clots. One clot was near her forehead, while the other was behind her ear. In that moment, Bethany’s world turned upside down.

Confusion, anger, and irritation overwhelmed Bethany as she struggled to comprehend what was happening around her. The doctors repeatedly asked her to perform simple tasks, like raising her arm, but she couldn’t fathom the severity of her situation. Paralyzed on her left side, she spent about a week and a half in the ICU, followed by two months in an inpatient rehabilitation center.

As the time for discharge approached, Bethany found herself faced with a choice: a nursing home or moving back home with her parents, who were en route from Cincinnati, her hometown, to support her through this difficult period. Anticipating a quick recovery, Bethany initially envisioned being “back to normal” within a few weeks. However, the reality of her new circumstances gradually sank in. That was 15 years ago.

Now 44 years old, Bethany has defied expectations one step at a time. Though she still experiences partial paralysis on her left side, she has regained the ability to walk unassisted, climb stairs, and drive. Despite her physical challenges, Bethany has remained resilient and found ways to lead a fulfilling life.

Several years after her stroke, Bethany attempted to return to New Jersey but eventually realized that Cincinnati was where she truly felt at home. She purchased a condominium in the same building as her mother, after her father passed away in 2012.

Following her stroke, Bethany adapted her career path. Initially juggling multiple jobs while pursuing a paralegal degree, she now works remotely, providing customer service via e-mail and live chat. Bethany’s journey toward acceptance and resilience has also led her to volunteer with the Greater Cincinnati Stroke Consortium, where she visits schools to educate children about stroke symptoms. Additionally, she has found motivation in events like the American Heart Association’s Cincinnati Heart Mini-Marathon & Walk, using them as milestones to push herself beyond her perceived limitations. Last year, Bethany proudly completed over 8 miles, and this year, she came close to achieving a similar feat.

Her mother, Ruth Moeddel, acknowledges the role reversal they now face, with Ruth becoming the caregiver for her adult daughter. Having already lost a son to COVID-19, Ruth understandably fears for Bethany’s health. However, she praises her daughter as tough and resilient, highlighting the extraordinary progress she has made since leaving the rehabilitation hospital.

Bethany’s journey serves as a testament to the power of resilience and determination in the face of unexpected challenges. Although her life took an unexpected turn that fateful day, she has refused to let her stroke define her. Bethany’s story reminds us that with the right mindset and support, one can triumph over adversity and find new purpose and joy in life.

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved.

By Kellie B. Gormly, American Heart Association News


SLIDESHOW: What Happens After a Stroke? Signs, Symptoms, Types

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