A Comeback After Only Two Months? Shirley, You Must Be Kidding!

Something amazing happened yesterday. Have you ever met a survivor? I mean, a *real* one. I know somebody who is incredible.

Shirley, one of the founding four in my Wednesday spin class, made a big comeback last night.

How big?


Two months ago, Shirley suffered a stroke. At the health club. Our Wednesday class was heartbroken and worried. Phone calls and e-mails were flying, everyone trying to get the scoop on her condition.

Although I had reservations about it at first, we had a festive class for my 40th birthday that week (because Shirley would have been really ticked off if we didn’t celebrate*) and set up a bike in Shirley’s honor with a tiara and a red glow necklace on it.

I was only hoping to see her again; of course, I would miss her–we would *all* miss her–in class, but in my prayers I only wanted her to be okay; the weekly face-time over the spin bikes was secondary.

Over time, we got the updates. Shirley was doing better. Shirley was going home from the hospital. Shirley was going to be fine. It was such a relief. We were told that Shirley, who works in the Child Care Center at the health club, would wait to come back until summer. And that’s where the status stood for several weeks.

Last week, before my Tuesday morning class, I walked into the locker room to put my bag and coat in a locker. As I walked by the locker bay closest to the entrance, I heard a familiar voice but kept walking.

Wait a minute. Could it be?

I stopped in my tracks to listen and then literally walked backward to the opening of the locker bay. There she was, in all her glory. I started shrieking, “Shirley! Is that really you?”

This woman gave me the longest, warmest bear hug. I was overcome with emotion. She told me that she started back to work the day before and would be at class this week! I told her we’d celebrate, for sure. Later, I sent out this tweet.

That’s what led me to bake cookies yesterday afternoon. I put them in party goody bags, because though we normally sit around for a bit after class during a “party” and eat the treats, Shirley can never stay because she takes the PACE bus home (oh, did I mention that she is legally blind?). It was a celebration in her honor.

There were about 22-24 people in class last night. Shirley even brought her husband! I (and several others) verified with Shirley that her doctor cleared her for exercise (she said he even knows she’s spinning: he said “Go for it!”) and class got underway. It was a wild, loud, and crazy class. I was bursting because it was the first time in months that my founding four were all in class at the same time.

And man, I wish I could sweat like that during all of my workouts. I’d be positively stick-thin.

Having Shirley back in class felt like “coming home” again. There was laughter on top of laughter on top of laughter.

And really, what better way to get the workout done than with your friends, while laughing? I am truly blessed.

Shirley’s tremendous comeback and lack of lasting effects from the stroke are credited to the club members and employees who found her in the locker room and called 9-1-1 immediately. Due to their quick actions, Shirley was given medical attention quickly, which is paramount when you’re dealing with stroke.


The symptoms of stroke are distinct because they happen quickly:

* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
* Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If doctors can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours it is possible to totally reverse the effects of a stroke. The trick is getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours.

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S *Ask the individual to SMILE.

T *Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
(i.e. It is sunny out today)

R *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

One more sign of a stroke ——– Stick out Your Tongue!

Ask the person to stick out his tongue.. If the tongue is crooked, if it goes to one side or the other, that can also be an indication of a stroke.

*Another example of Shirley’s spirit? The week before the incident, she spoke to me before class and told me she planned on switching up her workout routine a bit. I said, “You’re not giving up my class, are you?” She said, “Oh no, I wouldn’t do that. Gotta keep the Wednesday class or you’ll be after me.” I said, “That’s right; I’ll be kicking your butt if you stop coming to class.” Laughing, she replied, “That’s why I’ll be here! I’m never leaving!



  • Dea

    I’m in tears! I’m so glad she’s back! Shirley is one of the best people, ever. 🙂 So glad she’s back, and doing so well!!!! Can’t wait to see her!!!

  • Sarah

    Such a great story, with such a wonderful ending.

    And it’s great that you can help spread awareness of this, too. Hopefully none of us ever need to use these steps – but it’s good to know.

  • Weaselmomma

    Lesson of the day: If I keep up with your workout regimen and blog, I am going to have a stroke. Great.
    Congrats to Shirley, she makes me feel like a schlep.

  • Melisa with one S

    Nukedad: “Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison?”

    Deanna: We totally missed you! 🙁

    Sarah: I thought it would be a good idea to make it into a PSA. 😉

    Weaselmomma: Um, yeah. NOT. 🙂 But thanks for bringing the comprehension of my post out to a whole other place! LOL

  • Mr Lady

    Stroke checks at the bar at 1 in the morning…that’s all I can think of right now.

    Yes, I’m going to hell.

    But Shirley kicks ASS, that much it true.

  • Oh My GOFF!

    Wow! I’m so glad Shirley is okay. So glad there was Quick action by co-workers. Thanks for getting the word out on the symptoms of a stroke. My father had one just a little more than a year ago and it was unexpected and a complete eye opener. Thank you. Blessings to Shirley.

  • Jacqueline

    What an inspiration Shirley is and motivator (and baker 🙂 you are! We are all so lucky to be at your Wednesday night class!

  • Michelle

    Wow. I totally got goosebumps reading this. I remember you talking about the party — and I’m SO glad to hear that she’s better, especially this better!

  • Melisa with one S

    Mr. Lady: I think you’ll agree when I say that I hardly think that your “going to hell” is a new thing, because of that comment. (J/K) (but not really)(but sort of) 🙂

    Nukedad: Ever seen a grown man, naked?

    Jacqueline: Thanks for stopping in!!! 🙂

    Michelle: You, me, and countless others!