The Birth of a Charity

A female adult cecropia moth
Julie Hahnke
Julie Hahnke
Julie is the President of Cecropia Strong and is a stroke survivor, who was finally found after three days. She's a bagpiper, an author, a management consultant, and a nature enthusiast.

You’re in the hospital, but the reality is blurry. You’re floating in and out of consciousness, but the pain meds are so strong, you leave the coping to somebody, anybody else. This is what it’s like to be hit with a debilitating illness. This is what it’s like to have your life yanked away, your dreams crushed in an instant, and your hope dead. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) one in four U.S. adults live with a disability. I’ve been there. I suffered a major stroke four years ago. And I’ve climbed back. (And I can show you the way!)

The Analogy of Metamorphosis

Caterpillars go through their day, munching on leaves, and growing bigger as they eat. The largest, the cecropia moth caterpillars, start as tiny little things—barely half a centimeter long—but they’ll grow in six weeks to a magnificent 5”. Then they spin their cocoons, and undergo a metamorphosis—coming out of the cocoon different from when they went in. When I had my stroke, I felt like a cecropia emerging from its cocoon. My life, as I knew it, didn’t exist. I didn’t know what my body could do anymore—it didn’t do much—and I had no hope. 

 

The Bleak Re-Beginning

When I think back to the days, weeks, and months following my stroke, the memories aren’t pleasant. I wasn’t found for three days, and that meant my stroke took a serious turn (see hemorrhagic conversion in https://www.juliehahnke.com/2021/01/what-is-a-stroke/). My right side was paralyzed—it’s called hemiplegia in stroke survivors. I couldn’t talk—my speech was very drawn out, and most of the words were gibberish (that’s aphasia: another stroke symptom!) And my brain was extremely foggy.

Your body doesn't know what's up

The nurses and therapists told me to be kind to my body after a stroke, but they didn’t tell me what they meant. (The hemiplegic side screws up, and you can break bones!) Two months after my stroke, I broke the largest bone in my foot, and two months later I broke my upper arm. Three months after that I broke a rib, followed by another rib two months later. (And this was all in the first year!) The good news is that I improved A LOT, since then, but I never want to live through that again!

11 months after my stroke, in Dr. Freni's study
11 months after the stroke, I participated in a study applying transcranial electrical and magnetic stimulation to my head. I'm holding Baloo2, a replica of my cat, made from towels, rubber bands, and plastic water bottles (for weight.) I wanted to hold my cat again!

It's not "Me" anymore—it's "we"

Progress, on the heels of a disability—and especially a brain disability—is tough; I’m not going to say otherwise. But it can be made, even if it’s slower than you’d like, and even if it takes so much longer than you ever imagined. But there’s one important difference when you’ve got such a setback—it’s no longer, “me.” It’s all about, “we!” I can’t take the credit for all that I’ve gotten back, these past four years, without a lot of people getting mentioned first!

It doesn’t matter what disability you’re facing, or where along that path you’re at. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just been diagnosed or if you were born with your disability, at Cecropia Strong we have your back! Whether you’re a spouse, or a child, or a parent, or a friend…we’re here for you!

Conclusion

A lot of people helped me get to where I am today, and for that I’m grateful. This charity is paying back this wonderful gift by helping others to see and achieve their dreams. Look through this web site and see the various projects we’re involved in, and become a vibrant part of this growing community! Cecropia Strong wants you!

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