Stroke Recovery: Azmat Alibhai’s Inspirational Story

It was like any other Thursday afternoon. I was at my clinic when my phone rang. I ignored it and continued working. It wasn’t till later when I glanced at my phone and read the last message on our forever active WhatsApp group chat. The message read, “Azmi had a stroke yesterday” – I felt the ground shatter beneath me. This was impossible. She was our group ambassador for Health and Nutrition. I asked my receptionist immediately to clear my schedule for an hour, I could not think clearly.

Turns out Azmat had an Ischemic Stroke which is an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain causing her to lose her speech and movement. This was serious.

Fast forward to a month after the stroke… She was in no condition to speak – she kept saying –  “Z these are my words, my ONLY words.” I tried to speak to her in Greek but she seemed blank.

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It has been 14 months since the episode and Azmat has come a long way. Being a cardiologist I was closely affiliated with the hospital, I showed her MRI and other reports to a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, cardiologist and speech pathologists and we decided to have a video call session with her. Based on the reports the team was not too hopeful.

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When they spoke to her and saw Azmat’s condition they were shocked to say the least. Dr. Pannagiotis, head of the Neurology Department asked if there was a mistake instead. He was delighted to see how well she was coping after the incident.

However, what struck me was her spirit.

“Currently I am at 40% and this is not an option. I intend to hardwire my brain to achieve 100%.”

Perhaps there is some validity in her theory of hard-wiring the brain. Azmat 2.0 was on a roll! Though, the team took it upon themselves to monitor her progress closely and slowly and eventually saw the joie de vivre returning. Although we have a monthly video call to monitor her progress, truth be told, it is simply to get our dose of uplifting. The vibrant and gentle soul is back. She did not have a team of medical experts but just one neurologist who was solely responsible for her recovery. Kudos to Dr. Nadir!IMG_4310

We offered her a full time position to head the Integrative Wellness Department at our hospital, an offer she is yet to consider. In the meantime, she put together a comprehensive wellness program which we now use at the hospital. She also writes our monthly newsletter. Nevertheless, it’s great to see her communicating with the medical staff in Greek and Arabic.

We are ecstatic to see the beautiful smile on her face again. For now she is focusing on giving back to the community by teaching yoga and conducting workshops creating awareness for stroke patients. Most importantly she is creating hope, an important tool for recovery. In her words, “Our job is an ‘inside’ one. To change our world all we have to do is change the way we feel from the inside – it’s that simple. Think of it like hard wiring your brain. Worry, anxiety, unhappiness, dissatisfaction just attracts more of the some while joy, happiness, love, peace attracts more peace so on and so forth.”

As the final countdown to ending 2016 and starting 2017 approaches us let us ponder on a lesson we have learnt.  Take the good with the bad and embrace it with grace and dignity.

Text & photos: Dr. Giannis Z. Kyrikos practices in Cyprus and Greece

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