Life after a stroke: Finding strength and determination


Samantha Lough, a sophomore journalism major, ran her first a 5k after her stroke on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Alexis Wohler

At 17-years-old and a senior in high school, Samantha Lough, now a sophomore journalism major, was focused on her graduation and on her softball scholarship to Capital University in Columbus. On the day of March 15, 2010, her life changed forever.

Sam suffered from two strokes in the same day, one mild and one severe, which put her in the hospital for almost two months.

Sam’s mother, Tiffany Lough, said Sam had gotten sick the day before the first stroke, with a fever and nausea. Sam woke up complaining throughout the night that she didn’t feel good. At 9:45 a.m. she had the first stroke in the bathroom. Tiffany found her slumped against the wall.

Tiffany first thought her daughter was having a seizure. When Tiffany asked Sam if she remembered who she was, what year it was and what year she was born, Sam couldn’t remember any of the answers.

“I asked her a bunch of questions as to what day it was, who she was, what year it was and asked if she remembered where she was and if she remembered who we were,” Tiffany said. “She didn’t remember any of it. That’s when I knew she was having a stroke.”

When the EMS arrived a half hour later, many thought her symptoms, including shaking, foaming at the mouth and vomiting constituted as a seizure, Tiffany said.

They rushed her to Robinson Memorial Hospital later that morning, where the doctors also didn’t believe she had a stroke. However, the MRI scan proved she did.

Sam was then transferred to Akron Children’s Hospital later that evening. Her second, more severe stroke occurred around 10 p.m. that same night.

After a series of tests, doctors found that a clot in her carotid artery caused the strokes.

Ten days later, she was able to start sitting up again in her hospital bed on her own.

Tiffany was most worried about her daughter not being able to remember who her family was, but when Sam woke up, she called for her mom asking her what had happened.

“I called for her saying ‘Mom?’ (and) she couldn’t believe I knew who she was,” Sam said. “I asked her ‘Where am I? I want to go to school and hang out with my friends,’ but then she broke the news that I couldn’t leave the hospital because I’d had two strokes.”

The doctors told Sam that her sports dreams were over. She was still determined to regain control of her life, though.

“There were over 200 people in that hospital visiting a day,” Tiffany said. “They had to open up another waiting room just for our family and friends to come visit her.”

Sam had support from her family and her softball team at Capital University.

“The fact that my team and coach came to visit me from three hours away in Columbuswhen I had the strokemeant a lot to me,” Sam said. “I had tremendous support from my family throughout my healing process as well. My mom would always push me to do my strengthening exercises even when I told her I was tired.”

Sam was in the hospital for 50 days and was then transferred to the Cleveland Clinic for rehabilitation. The doctors and therapist there had her do extensive therapy to learn how to walk again, for nine hours, every day. Sam and her mom had to drive from Ravenna to Cleveland every day for a month for Sam’s rehab.

Her mom lived with her at the rehabilitation facility and the staff eventually let her be transferred over to Robinson Memorial Hospital for the rest of her rehabilitation, so that Sam wouldn’t have to make the lengthy trip to Cleveland every day, and be closer to home.

Sam said her religion has shaped her life and helped her become a new person.

“I knew God before I had the stroke, and I got saved the year after I had the stroke,” Sam said. “For the first year after my stroke I was very depressed, but when I got saved, God spoke to me and I became a ‘new Sam,’ and I started looking at life differently.”

Sam became a Christian on March 23, 2011. She was in church and the pastor invited people to come up and receive Christ into their hearts. Her faith affected other parts of her life as well.

Sam said her dad was an alcoholic for 32 years, but gave alcohol up after Sam suffered from the two strokes.

“When he heard I’d had the stroke, he did 90 on the freeway to get to me. He thought he was going to lose his oldest daughter,” Sam said. “The cops stopped him for speeding, and he explained the situation about me through tears, and the cops actually gave him an escort. He came into the hospital room, saw me and broke down because he didn’t know how to handle seeing me in that state.”

Sam said her father would come into her hospital room, stay with her for a few minutes and then go out in the parking lot and try to drink, because he didn’t know how else to cope with his daughter being in the hospital.

He started going to church with Sam and he became a Christian. He has been sober for four and a half years. He leads Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and helps other people by telling his daughter’s story.

“I think it was me having the stroke that helped him give up alcohol,” Sam said. “Now we have a better relationship than we used to. He and I do stuff together, that he and my other siblings don’t do. We’re actually father and daughter.”

Sam set goals for herself such as walking at graduation after the stroke, which she achieved.

Another goal Sam had set for herself was to be able to run a 5K in under an hour and not finishing last. She achieved that goal on Oct. 24 by timing in at 57 minutes and not in last place.

“My friends and family were all there cheering me on as I ran,” Sam said. “It felt so good and special to me, that they called off work, and took time away from their passions to come witness me, achieve my passion,”

Throughout her time in the hospital and beyond, Sam’s family provided her with their support.

Daniel Lough, Sam’s oldest brother, stayed at the hospital and was there for Sam whenever she needed him, including encouraging her to stay strong and overcome her obstacles.

“My sister is radiant, because, no matter what life has thrown at her, she shines,” Lough said.

Sam’s little sister Taylor was 10 years old at the time of Sam’s stroke. She didn’t realize what was happening to her sister, but knew there was something wrong.

“Because of my sister having the stroke, I couldn’t sleep at night,” Taylor said. “I’d sleep during the day and then lie awake at night thinking about all the what ifs. I ended up suppressing the memories and didn’t know really what to do.”

From the ordeal, Taylor said she is inspired by her sister’s courage.

Tiffany said she knows her daughter and family are fighters who can push through anything, and knows how remarkable Sam’s recovery was, but still has her worries.

“I worry about her blacking out, something happening to her, such as her having a seizure while she’s drivingthose are possibilities that scare me,” Tiffany said. “Her field of vision and perception of things while driving is different now because of what she’s gone through, but I know she will continue to persevere no matter what comes her way.“

Sam said their family even had their home remodeled for free because of her ordeal. She also has learned a lot about herself since 2010.

“It was amazing through the experience of me having the strokes,” Sam said. “I was able to grow closer to God and have a personal relationship with him, as well as have a new relationship with my father and strengthen my inner-self.”

Alexis Wohler is the CCI reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].