My name is Harshada and I am a young stroke survivor. When I was 23 years old in 2008, during my second year of medical school at Duke University, I suffered a massive, spontaneous brainstem stroke. I was left paralyzed from head to toe and subsequently, had locked-in syndrome, which is as horrifying and inescapable as the name implies. My stroke not only took away my body, but also my life, my future and my career. But physical therapy and rehabilitation are giving me a chance to live and to dream again. Along my journey, I noticed the unreasonable amount of young people exactly like me whose lives were similarly dismantled by catastrophic injuries and illnesses, but they couldn’t always afford the exorbitant cost of the years of physical therapy needed. I realized, I’m one of the lucky ones to have the means and enough social support to move mountains. Not everyone is so lucky.
This whole ordeal has been nothing short of absolutely, positively devastating and heartbreaking every single second of every single day for the last five years. But I have been blessed with incredible, unwavering support from my family and friends through all of this. Somehow, in the mix of things, my cousin, Simran, became my wonderful, irreplaceable source of positivity, and hope. For every pessimistic thought I had, she had an optimistic point instantly to counter me. She believed in me so much, that I had no choice but to believe in myself. We decided that every young survivor should have this much support. Everyone should have this much hope. Everyone should have, no, everyone deserves, access to life-changing therapy and the chance to fight for their lives. With her passion and my experience, we started with a dream, and it soon blossomed into a reality. We started this organization to bring support, hope, and aid to young survivors so they have the power to win back their lives.