Karen Bjorgan was having the worst headache of her life. It was 1992, and the 32-year-old had just given birth to her first child 3 weeks before. After a week of extreme pain and visits to the emergency room, she woke up in the hospital unable to speak.
A danger to women
Stroke affects almost 800,000 Americans each year. It’s the 4th leading cause of death and is more common in women than in men.
“Strokes can happen at any age, and can occur in otherwise healthy people,” says Matthew Ostrander, MD, a Park Nicollet neurologist. “Many people with stroke risk factors are not aware they have them. That’s why it is important to have regular physicals.”
Common risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart conditions
Risk factors for stroke that are specific to women include:
- Taking birth control pills
- Using hormone replacement therapy
Finding healing and hope
Two years after her stroke, Karen started a support group. She wanted there to be a forum where other young people who had suffered strokes or brain injuries could connect.
This group was the root of Park Nicollet’s INSPIRE program, which Karen and a team of doctors and therapists launched in 1997. This program offers support, education and hope to stroke survivors and their families.
INSPIRE offers resources such as:
- Support groups
- Fitness classes
- Art clubs
Even though Karen is more than 20 years into her stroke recovery, she hasn’t forgotten what it felt like.
“Isolation is the enemy in a stroke recovery,” she says. “The key is to find a community where you feel comfortable. They can help you move to the next level of recovery. And they can help you gain purpose. That’s why INSPIRE exists.”