Last year, Jennifer Pickell went from nursing others to needing help herself after she experienced a stroke at the age of only 34.

On July 26, 2019, Pickell went for an early morning shower like normal, but then the unexpected happened.

Pickell is an otherwise healthy nurse and mom of three daughters. She and her family live in St. Jean-Baptiste, Man.

The interesting thing is that her stroke happened on a Friday morning when normally her husband would be away working. But that week, he came home Thursday night. 

"So Friday morning I had gone for a shower and I was getting a headache and I didn't think too much about it. All of a sudden my right side went numb."

What Pickell didn't realize was that she was having a stroke. 

"I remember calling for my husband and that's all I remember," she says.

Pickell's husband woke up to his wife's calls for help and then worked his way into the bathroom, as it was locked. 

Pickell says, "He called the ambulance and they brought me to Winkler. I had numbness on my right side and then I was in and out of consciousness the whole time."

Only a few months prior, Winkler's hospital, the same one Pickell normally works at, set up a telecall where they contact HSC neurology on-call in Winnipeg. The doctors were able to connect and through this service, they figure out that she was indeed having a stroke. 

"STARS was called and I was brought to the Health Science Centre and within ten minutes the thrombectomy was done."

A thrombectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove blood clots from arteries and veins, in this case, it was a blood clot in Pickell's brain. 

The doctors discovered that the cause of Pickell's stroke was due to a hole in her heart.

"I was in the hospital for a total of five days. Then I came home and started physio here, and I've had it every two weeks since."

It's been just over a year since her stroke and as of last week, she worked her first two shifts at the hospital. 

The road to full recovery was a long one, as brain injuries take a while to heal.

She says, "We have so much family and friends support that they made this quite a bit easier. It was hard, but it was good because there was so much encouragement."

Her husband took time off work, and as her family lives close, they had a lot of extra help.

"I had to do everything in little goals. My first goal was to be able to tuck my girls in [for night]. In order to do that, I had to walk downstairs as the older two have their bedrooms in the basement."

Pickell's third daughter was only six months old when she had the stroke, which made caring for her quite difficult.

"I knew I couldn't hold my baby because I just wasn't strong enough. Every day I would walk those stairs in increments of five. I think after a week, I was able to walk downstairs and tuck my girls in."

Pickell could only hold her youngest daughter when she was sitting, at first. 

"In order to hold my baby at the time, we worked my strength up. I walked with a melon then worked up to a squash, just for weight because I was so off-balance. Once I was done with the squash I would actually hold dolls. Then I was able to hold my baby."

After only a month and a half, Pickell was ready to be on her own. It was at that time when her husband started working again. 

Pickell now has a newfound perspective on life. 

Fighting to get better for her family, she says, "I wasn't going to let it get me down. It makes you appreciate every little thing."