According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person passes away from a stroke every three minutes and 14 seconds. For Elvis Golja, 53, his stroke was a moment that has made him advocate for his health and others.
Golja remembers the stroke like it was yesterday. On the morning of Aug. 27, 2021, Goljia was washing his patio. When he went inside to grab himself water, symptoms started when he suddenly felt an imbalance in his ear.
“I called my daughter’s name, and that’s when I felt myself going numb,” Golja said.
In less than five minutes, an ambulance arrived to take Golja to be treated at UofL Health – UofL Hospital.
Golja said he remembers his hand, wrist and arm going completely numb and immediately started treatment once he arrived at the hospital. When he was released the following Monday, he had difficulty facing the reality of what he had just experienced.
“I can’t explain it really,” Golja said. “I’m still trying to absorb it all. [It was] nothing I’ve ever experienced. I knew I’d gone through a traumatic experience and I knew my life was brand new.”
But Golja didn’t let this experience tear him down. He was determined to get back on his feet and slowly began working his way toward a full recovery. Golja began the process of working on his speech, recording himself reciting the ABCs and slowly working toward reaching with his left arm.
“I wanted to exercise my mind as much as I could,” he said. “I would roll dice and a deck of cards, buy crossword and sudoku puzzles. [I also] searched for words and [worked on] vocabulary puzzles.”
Melissa Lebo, APRN, is a stroke nurse practitioner at UofL Health and helped oversee Golja’s recovery.
“There’s so much that we can do for stroke patients to improve their long-term outcomes and decrease the amount of damage that can be done,” Lebo said.
Lebo was amazed at how well Golja stayed on top of his health.
“His recovery happened in his soul,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve seen any patient go all in as much as he has. He’s a changed person. It’s inspiring.”
Golja’s experience has inspired him to bring more stroke awareness to his hometown in New York and has taught him the unpredictability of strokes.
“Strokes don’t discriminate,” he said. “They affect us at any age. I wish I would have known more about strokes and the types of strokes we could possibly be affected by. I would have advocated more for others, and others would have advocated for me throughout my life.”
Golja’s recovery has made him feel the utmost gratitude for his medical team, and he has realized just how fragile life can be.
“We should all make our health a priority,” he said. “We take it for granted, and that’s what I’d like for everybody to come to terms with.”
UofL Health has a Comprehensive Stroke Center at UofL Health – UofL Hospital and two primary stroke centers at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital and UofL Health – Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. UofL Health also has free stroke support groups to help patients share their experiences and help them adjust back to normal daily activities. You can visit UofLHealth.org/Services/Stroke to learn more about UofL Health’s stroke services or call 502-645-5425 to join a stroke support group.