Pediatric Stroke: Derek's Story

There truly is power in positive thinking — just ask Derek Marshall. At 17, he suffered a stroke and needed brain surgery to stop the bleeding in his brain. Derek then spent about two months at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Seashore House undergoing rehabilitation and monitoring by the Pediatric Stroke Program.

Derek “Everyone at CHOP was very positive,” recalls Derek. “They didn’t spend a lot of time talking about my prognosis. And they didn’t see a boundary to what I could achieve.”

The caring and positive attitude of everyone on Derek’s healthcare team motivated him to get better. It also helped him return to high school and finish his senior year.

In the years since his stroke, Derek has held two internships (one in the Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care at CHOP) and moved on to college at La Salle University, where he’s now studying accounting.

And Derek believes positive thinking remains a key to both his recovery and continued success.

How to stay positive after a stroke

So how does Derek stay positive, even in the face of setbacks? Here, Derek shares his advice for remaining optimistic.

  • Focus on the future. “I am not my condition or the medical issues I’ve faced. Whatever has happened just makes you a better person. Don’t lose yourself in the struggle, because it’s all just part of the journey.”
  • Recovery is a lifelong process. “My outlook is always changing and improving. Just a year ago, I was in a certain mindset where I was always saying ‘I want to be better’ and working to get stronger and healthier. Now, I changed that mindset and I try to say ‘I am better!’”
  • Write about the good days so you can recall them on your bad days. “I started writing poetry after my stroke. I try to write inspiring poems and I write when I’m in a really positive mood, so I can look back on my poems when times are tough.”

Want more words of wisdom from Derek? You’ll find plenty in his poem, which speaks not only to kids and young adults who have experienced a stroke, but to anyone going through a difficult time.


Don't trust games of chance 
Because eenie meenie miney moe was never random 
In life everything is caused, affects something and leaves someone damaged 
And when the carpet turns to lava, the couch isn't big enough or close enough to save everyone from being stranded
So when you're trying to save the world you have to use your imagination

Climb every wall
Because whatever is worth trying to hide is worth trying to seek
And you might make it to the other side to find exactly what you need 
Besides, you're not an egg and there's a way to repair you
So indulge in everything that satisfies your curiosity 
Because the unknown should never scare you 

And when it's too dark to see exactly what's in front of you
Keep walking forward for as long as you feel solid ground is under you
Fear nothing and act according to your own free will
Trust your instincts when they tell you to just be still

Next Steps

You Might Also Like
Avery, stroke patient

Avery's Story

After a stroke at age 17, Avery willed her mind and body back to the basketball court.

male college student smiling

College after Stroke

Many young adults choose to pursue a college degree after a stroke. Find tips to help you prepare for a successful transition to college.

Jacob smiling outside

Jacob’s Stroke Story

Jacob, 7, loves to play soccer and other sports. Just five years ago, his parents were told he might never walk normally again.