Stroke Victim Overcomes Disability to Become a Mom

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – The career of a professional dancer was cut short when she suffered a stroke at the age of 29.  After losing the use of half her body, Sarah Abrusley tackles a new challenge: becoming a mom.

“My demeanor and body type were perfectly suited to ballet,” said Abrusely. She was only 3 years old when she started dancing.

What began as a hobby took Sarah through childhood, then college into adulthood and eventually around the world.

Tip-toeing around the stage, Sarah was the picture of health. “I was always Sarah the ballerina,” Abrusely said.

Then everything changed.

On September 7, 2007 Sarah had a massive brain hemorrhage when a benign tumor ruptured. Doctors said she should have had signs her entire life. Sarah never had a clue.

“Almost losing my life made realize tomorrow is not promised to anyone,” Abrusely said.

Stroke recovery was long and grueling. The dancer who once graced the stage couldn’t even hold up her own head. Her husband Damien had some serious concerns when just 4 years later Sarah said she wanted to be a mom.

“Getting back mobility in her left arm, her left hand. And how much would she be able to use it and would she be able to care for our baby with one fully functioning hand and arm,” Damien said.

The couple dove in head first.

Occupational therapist Francine Bienvenu began working with Sarah and a doll to learn everyday tasks most moms wouldn’t think twice about.

“So we had to figure out and problem-solve how we would be able to do things like diaper a baby, change a baby’s clothes, be able to nurse a baby, fix a bottle, you name it,” explained Bienvenu.

Preparation for baby Alexei’s arrival included much more than picking paint colors for the nursery.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

In Sarah’s case it took a network of family, health professionals, and maybe most importantly other moms who could relate.

She and Damien met one woman with cerebral palsy who carried her baby by grabbing its clothes with her teeth.

“It gave me a lot of hope to meet those people, because I got to meet them and hear first hand,” Sarah said.

No number of training dolls or therapy sessions, however, came close to the real thing.

Sarah says every day is a new challenge.

In this new leading role, not as prima ballerina but instead as mom, Sarah doesn’t show an ounce of stage fright.

A ballerina learning a new balancing act.

A mother’s love overcoming the odds.