Nancy's Story

Nancy Bernal in rehabilitation


Living an admitted "unhealthy, reckless life," 34-year-old Nancy Bernal faced a pivotal moment when she had a sudden stroke after showering. "I felt like I was missing steps in my brain," Nancy recalls, describing the strange sensation she felt.

Alone in her one-bedroom apartment with only her dog for company, she also was experiencing blood pressure issues. My friend saved my life," she said. "After I knew something was wrong, I just laid down. My friend called me and I was not making sense." Her friend called 911.

Rushed to Plano Presby, a swift diagnosis and surgery followed. Indeed, Nancy had suffered a stroke, requiring an emergency procedure to clear the clot. She had suffered a loss of speech and the inability to move her arms or right leg. Recovering from a stroke may be one of the greatest challenges a person will ever face, but Nancy received news that was even more surprising.

"They told me I had ALPS [autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome] and had to be put on warfarin for the rest of my life," Nancy exclaimed. Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome is a rare genetic disorder of the immune system. In ALPS, unusually high numbers of white blood cells called lymphocytes accumulate in the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen and can lead to the enlargement of these organs. ALPS can also cause anemia.

Once Nancy stabilized, she chose to begin her rehabilitation journey at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) - Frisco. "My sister was the advocate to put me in some sort of therapy," she recalled. "She was amazing. She did the research and enrolled me into inpatient at Baylor Scott & White."

The rehabilitation team at BSWIR – Frisco worked with Nancy and her family to put a customized treatment plan in place. "I wanted to get my speech back and get healthier," she said.

Determined to reclaim her speech and adopt a healthier lifestyle, Nancy enthusiastically took up the rehabilitation process. She embraced the required physical, occupational and speech therapy. Physical therapy activities aimed to strengthen her body and increase her endurance and activity tolerance. Occupational therapy focused on refining her fine motor skills and completing household tasks. Speech therapy aided Nancy in regaining control of her muscles, helping her speak clearly and with confidence. Her commitment was evident to her therapists.

"I feel like this all happens for a reason," she stated, attributing her past eating habits as a potential reason for her stroke. Now a proud vegan who has shed 38 pounds, Nancy beams with renewed energy.

While therapists at BSWIR – Frisco played a pivotal role, providing essential support and guidance, Nancy emphasized the importance of her own determination. "I knew I had to do it to get better," she remarked about the therapies.

A key milestone in Nancy's recovery journey was the day she confidently got behind the wheel. The familiar action of driving signified progress and showed her that she was on the right track. "It made me feel like, 'Okay, you are making some progress.'"

Family and friends formed her backbone of support. Their presence gave her comfort and peace of mind throughout her rehabilitation. Looking forward, she eagerly anticipated her return to work, with plans to continue speech therapy.

When she speaks of the BSWIR – Frisco team, gratitude fills Nancy's heart. "I can't say enough good about this program," she expressed.

For those embarking on their own rehabilitation journey, Nancy offers these words of encouragement: "You can do anything you want to do. You just have to put in effort, do it every day, try hard, and you will get those things you want. Be it walking, speaking, or anything."