Meet Ali Parker

10.11.23

Ali Parker has suffered three strokes in her life: the first when she was 18 months old, the second at 21 years old, and the third at age 37. She is, today, only 46.

All of her strokes were caused by arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), which are tangles of blood vessels that cause irregular connections between arteries and veins.

When she was a child, Ali did not feel differently from other children despite having had a stroke while still a toddler. She does remember her mom warning her against doing activities that would elevate her pulse too much.

After her second stroke at age 21, Ali experienced memory issues and trouble recalling words, plus some visual difficulty that made gauging speed and distance difficult.

When she had her third stroke at age 37 in 2014, Ali experienced paralysis on the right side of her body, with little movement remaining in her right arm and leg. She also experienced severe aphasia, which is an acquired communications disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Imagine the frustration of having all your intelligence but managing to speak only in one-syllable answers, such as “yes,” “no,” and “ok. “

Ali spent months in the hospital receiving intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapies. On the very day she was discharged, she fully regained use of her right arm.  Her right leg was starting to come back, but it would take eight years of outpatient physical therapy for Ali to be able to graduate from wheelchair to walker to cane. She relied on a cane until last year, when she was finally able to walk without it. She has now worked up from walking ½ mile without a cane to two miles at a time.

While the medical profession often cautions that most recovery happens in the first 18 months after a stroke, Ali is living proof that improvement can be achieved years after the stroke.

Ali’s speech has improved to the point that it is as if a problem never existed.

Psychologically, having three strokes at young ages caused Ali to isolate. “I felt I was going to bring people down with my story, so I secluded myself.” Then Ali’s mom got sick, and in caring for her, Ali left the house even less frequently. Compounding the situation, after her third stroke, Ali had to stop working. Her mother cautioned her—just as she did when Ali was a child—that doing too much could compromise her health and put her at risk.

Today, Ali strives to connect with people and find activities that she enjoys. In addition to her walking regimen, Ali takes Tai Chi classes. She lives in a bustling household with her sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, and a niece. She helps with the household and the children.

Ali enjoys meeting other stroke survivors at both our in-person and Zoom support groups.  “I most enjoy that the support groups allow time first for everyone to get to know one another through weekly check-ins. Then a topic of discussion arises out of what’s top of mind. You can talk about what’s eating at you in a forum that encourages discussion and the sharing of ideas.”

Beyond attending our support groups, Ali volunteers for Stroke Support Association in the Hospital Visitors Program, where she visits new stroke patients at a local hospital. Recently she met a 45-year-old stroke survivor,  who upon seeing how young Ali is and hearing her story, said with tangible relief,  “Your experience gives me so much to look forward to.” Ali is indeed a living example of achieving a full and meaningful life after stroke.


Betsy Hardiman, Executive Director

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