It’s been ten years since Tracey Jo Saiki first came to REHAB and faced one of the most difficult challenges of her life. Amidst the hard work of recovering from a life-altering stroke, Tracey found something at REHAB worth coming back for time and time again: a community.
Tracey served 26 years in the Air Force, living an active, healthy lifestyle. But on New Year’s Eve in 2013, Tracey suffered a stroke brought on by Moyamoya disease, a rare cerebrovascular disorder, that left her paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. “My family and I were rocked, and coming to terms with this big change in my life was very difficult,” Tracey shared. “I really had to dig deep and, as my sister puts it, airman up and get to work.”
Over the years, Tracey has been an active member of REHAB’s community and believes that in addition to her regular therapies (physical, occupational, and speech), participating in REHAB’s support programs helped her heal, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. From Stroke Club to the Creative Arts Program (CAP) and Aqua Therapy, Tracey does it all. She participates in ocean activities with AccesSurf and has even served as a mentor for other stroke survivors in a REHAB support group. “There were so many who helped me along the way, and it’s really rewarding to help others by sharing my experience,” Tracey said.
As a very social person, she had to adjust to being a “new Tracey” after her stroke, and laughs as she says, “A new Tracey Saiki to love!” Tracey believes having her family, friends, and a community of people who can understand what each other are going through has helped her to feel less isolated. “When I see my friends in programs like the CAP and Stroke Club, I feel a sense of support and comfort. These are people that I’ve gotten to know over the years and we can relate to one another. Seeing them is something I look forward to every time I visit REHAB.”
When asked about advice she has for new stroke survivors, Tracey shares, “You are a survivor, not a victim. There are so many things to experience and beautiful people to experience them with–so just say ‘no’ to the naysayers!”