On any given day, you’ll find 17-year-old Cherokee High School student Denver Benjamin practicing with her cheer team or working on her technique in three other sports – basketball, softball and volleyball. And by watching her play, you’d never know Denver experienced a significant stroke.
In January 2016, Denver came home from school early with extreme abdominal pain. Her mother, Elizabeth Goode, took her to their local emergency room, but despite Denver’s pain and high blood pressure, they were sent home. “A few hours later, she still had the same symptoms and had started vomiting,” Elizabeth said. “We went back to the ER, but once again they sent us home.”
The next day, although seeming to feel a little better, Denver suffered a stroke. “My husband, John, Denver’s stepdad, was home with her and he called me at work and said she fell to the floor and couldn’t talk or move her right side,” Elizabeth said. “She was alert so I tried to talk to her over the phone, but she was jumbling her speech and making no sense. I knew immediately she was having a stroke.”
The family quickly called 911 and first responders made the decision to airlift her to Children’s of Alabama. “That was the best decision they could make because you only have about three hours after the onset of symptoms to get the proper medicine that can effectively minimize the damage of a stroke,” Elizabeth said. “She was able to get the drug called TPA [tissue plasminogen activator] with just minutes to spare.”
Within a few hours of receiving her first dose of TPA, Denver began experiencing some movement in her right extremities, although it was uncontrollable. Three days later, doctors started Denver on inpatient speech therapy, followed by physical and occupational therapies. She had intensive therapy the entire time she was at Children’s, which was just over two weeks. “She made such a miraculous recovery,” Elizabeth said. “When she left the hospital, she was walking on her own with just a little assistance because her equilibrium was still off. Doctors said that by the time she left the hospital she was able to do things that some patients still couldn’t do six months after a stroke.”
While Denver’s still not quite where she was pre-stroke, she’s made great strides. She’s been released from outpatient physical and occupational therapy after reaching all of the set goals. She’s now down to speech therapy once a week. “I truly believe it was the grace of God that gave us the answer to our prayers,” Elizabeth said. “We experienced a miracle. And we couldn’t be more thankful to the doctors and staff at Children’s. The care she received was second to none.”