Whether presenting a case to a jury as a lawyer or singing on stage as a professional musician, Valerie Giglio of Stoneham, Massachusetts knows how to work a crowd.
“You play both ways,” she said.
When she was 42, she lost the ability to do both. All because of a sudden head turn.
The movement caused him severe pain in his neck which persisted for several days. This bothered Giglio enough for her to go to the hospital. Doctors told her it was probably a pulled muscle and discharged her.
The next morning, she felt dizzy and had double vision; the world was spinning. Her husband called 911. The ambulance took her to the same local hospital she had just visited.
Still unable to definitively diagnose the cause of her symptoms, doctors transferred her to another hospital. Tests revealed a stroke caused by bleeding in his brain. Known as a hemorrhagic stroke, it was caused by a weakened vessel that ruptured. About 13% of strokes are caused by such hemorrhages. His late diagnosis is likely due to the fact that strokes are not expected in people his age and with his general health.
“About one in six to seven strokes actually affects young people, but it’s not the kind of fact that’s widely acknowledged, even by doctors,” said Dr Aneesh Singhal, a neurologist who treated her. this night. “As a result, there is often a missed opportunity to deliver lifesaving treatments.”
The longer it takes to deal with the problem, the more time the physical problems have to set in. Giglio couldn’t swallow for a week. Speaking clearly was difficult and singing was impossible. His left side was paralyzed.
“It was like someone took a pen and drew a line down the middle of my body. Almost everything was stolen from me,” she said. “But luckily I had my mind.”
Giglio spent a week in the hospital, followed by two months in an inpatient rehabilitation center. The extent of her disability became apparent when, during a music therapy class, she had difficulty beating a cup as if it were a drum.
“I cried my eyes out,” she said.
But she was improving week by week. Walking with a cane was one of his first big steps. Walking without was an even bigger one. And just opening his left hand felt like a big win.
“I wanted my life back and I went the extra mile,” she said. “I did everything they told me to do and more.”
Determined to regain her singing voice, Giglio also began working with a vocal coach, relearning how to breathe properly and practice one note at a time. “I had no tone, no vibrato, nothing that would make me a professional singer,” she said.
The stroke happened in 2014. In 2016, she felt confident enough to audition for Berklee College of Music in Boston as vocal director. They offered him admission.
“It was triumphant,” she said.
It’s one of Giglio’s many accomplishments in the years since his stroke.
She has published a book about her stroke journey and she has advocated for legislation to improve intensive care for stroke patients. Inspired by her classes at Berklee, she founded her own music publishing company to produce her own songs, a fusion of old classics and electronic dance music called electro-swing.
Earlier this year, at the invitation of the American Heart Association, she performed the national anthem at a Boston Bruins NHL game. Televised to millions of people, it was by far its largest audience.
“It was great to hear the audience applaud when I made those high notes,” she said. “Hopefully I can break some stereotypes about what’s possible.”
Stories from the Heart chronicles the inspiring journeys of heart disease and stroke survivors, caregivers and advocates.
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