In early June, local resident Nicole LePine experience a medical emergency that rarely happens to a healthy teenager.
The 18-year-old was rushed to the hospital after having a stroke.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” recalled Nicole’s mother, Kim LePine. “We knew something was wrong from the assessment we had done and it just didn’t make sense.
“You don’t think of an 18-year-old having a stroke,” she reasoned.
“She’s a healthy young woman. There was nothing major that should indicate that that was an issue.
“It was a fairly large stroke and they’re not sure how long it had been there, either, or how long it had been going on—so probably during the night at some point it had started,” LePine added.
Nicole initially was supposed to be flown to Thunder Bay for further treatment, but instead was sent to Winnipeg due to poor weather conditions.
“The first 24-48 hours are the most critical, and it was up and down,” Kim LePine recounted.
“We didn’t know which way it was going to go.”
When doctors first observed the blood clot, they told the LePines that they expected it would begin to shrink.
“They said we should see something fairly soon [but] it wasn’t shrinking, it wasn’t moving,” LePine recalled, adding it was a very large clot.
“It was about four days later when we were in Thunder Bay and the doctor nonchalantly said something like, ‘Well, you know the clot is gone.’
“We were just stunned because we had been led to believe if it didn’t start dissipating fairly quickly that it could be there, and it was gone—totally gone.”
Once Nicole was stabilized, the family requested she to be transferred to Thunder Bay to be closer to family.
She has been there for more than a month now, receiving treatment along with two-three hours of therapy a day.
“Right now [the therapy] tires her out [but] she’s fighting through,” Kim LePine said.
“Even though she knows she’s tired, she still goes and does it.”
Since being hospitalized, the teen has received plenty of support from family, friends, and community members.
LePine created a Facebook page, named “Nicole LePine’s Recovery,” to document her daughter’s progress while well-wishers share positive thoughts in the comments section.
“We read her all the cards and the [Facebook] postings,” Kim LePine said. “People supporting her, which has been phenomenal.
“That’s been huge for her, and her friends coming to visit,” she added. “All the people coming up to visit.
“Between the family and the friends, she’s got a lot of support, which has been huge for her.
“She gets really excited, very emotional, when people are coming,” LePine noted.
“That support is really important.”
Nicole also has worked towards improving her speech and communication abilities now that a trach tube has been removed.
“Now that they’ve closed it up, she is making sounds,” her mom said.
“They’ve got her communicating through her eyes . . . she looks up or down for ‘yes’ and ‘no.’”
LePine noted her daughter spells out words, or uses numbers that correspond with a frequent action, when communicating with others.
“One of the first things she told her speech therapist is she wants to see her dog,” LePine enthused, adding Nicole’s brother plans to bring their dog to Thunder Bay soon.
The LePine family had considered taking Nicole to a hospital in Atlanta, Ga. that specializes in rehabilitation for young adults with strokes, but the plan fell through at the last minute.
“We [now] are looking at a specialized acquired brain injury place in Hamilton and they have a specialized program,” Kim LePine noted.
“Because Nicole is so young and very healthy, she’s responding to things very well,” she said, adding there’s only six beds at the Hamilton facility.
“We applied to that and we are looking at that for a possibility for the future.
In the meantime, LePine said Nicole has access to “phenomenal” rehab therapists in Thunder Bay.
“Being that she’s so healthy, they’re just pushing for her,” she enthused. “It’s really nice.”