Pediatric Stroke: Wes's Story

When Wes was 16, he had a stroke — forever changing his life. He shares his story of hospitalization, rehabilitation and hope for the future.

My stroke was an event that changed my life forever. It brought me down to the bottom of the totem pole when I used to be on the top. But when I think about it, I can’t complain about this stroke because without it, I never would have met the people at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Most people who have this kind of stroke don’t survive it, but I was lucky. I defied the odds and survived, and now have the opportunity to share my story. 

55 days in the hospital

I had my stroke on Feb. 2, 2010. When I was placed in the care of the fantastic nurses and doctors at CHOP, I underwent the longest and most forgettable 55 days of my life. I can’t remember my 17th birthday because I was in the Hospital, knocking on death’s door. Nearly every day was a battle of life or death until I was pushed in a wheelchair out of the Hospital doors weeks later, on March 29. 

My journey brought me near to death, but it also brought me very close to people I will cherish for the rest of my life. My favorite night nurse, Andrian Bondad, sat by my bed every night trying to figure out what I was trying to tell him. He was an extremely dedicated nurse. He even went as far as to camp out at his friend’s house so he could be there when I was extubated, and I am truly thankful for this. 

Rehabilitation and support

After my discharge from CHOP, I went through five hours of therapy a day. This included physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy and you can even count the wonderful people of respiratory therapy who had me do many breathing exercises. All of the wonderful nurses and doctors who provided great care to me have inspired me to follow in their footsteps. They diagnosed what was wrong with me and handled all of my medical needs. 

These nurses and doctors all have a very special place in my heart. One nurse in particular is irreplaceable and will always and forever be my very close friend. Her name is Jamie Carter Zanelli. She is an amazing nurse, and I feel truly privileged to have met her. 

This catastrophic event not only provided me with wisdom far beyond my age, but it also provided me with lifelong friends — people that I will talk to every day for the rest of my life. I look forward to having them at key events in my life, including my college graduation and my wedding, and I will be truly honored to have them there. 

It was a scary time. However, I showed fortitude and charisma and prevailed, and I still am to this day. 

Defying the odds

I am very thankful that the doctors at CHOP could pull the clot out of my brain. I thought that I would never walk again, but I defied the odds. Hopefully, I will be able to defy the odds and be able to skate again. 

Now I’m 18, and I’m a whole new person, completely different than when I turned 17. When the anniversary of my stroke came and went, I thought about everyone who helped me over the past year and how far I’ve truly come. That year was the worst year of my life, but the best is yet to come. That is when I step back onto the ice and when I run on the lacrosse field again.