Aurelio HuertasApril 9th, 2009. I remember it as if it was only yesterday. I had woken up to go through my normal routine as I did every morning; brush my teeth, take a shower, get dressed, and get out the door. However, I remember the temperature that morning seemed very chilly. As I was brushing my teeth, I remember thinking about some of the days events that lay ahead. What appeared to be just a typical day turned out to be anything but typical.

I suddenly started to feel dizzy and fell to the floor. I remember feeling dazed and confused. I crawled back to my bed and tried to reach for my phone to dial 911. I couldn't recognize the numbers, nor could I control the movement in my right hand or my right leg. I just remember staring at my phone and not being able to think straight. I wanted to just close my eyes and sleep so I could wake up from what I thought was a dream.

Luckily, I was able to crawl to the hallway of my apartment building and flag someone to come to my aid and call for an ambulance. I was rushed to Weiss Hospital in Chicago, where I received the news that I would be immediately transferred to Rush Hospital for emergency surgery. The reason: I had suffered a severe Hemorrhagic Stroke, resulting from a ruptured blood vessel in my brain. I was lucky to have survived.

I remained hospitalized for approximately two months after my stroke, followed by six months of intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy. Throughout that time I found myself viewing "progress" very differently. Days went by when I felt there had been no progress, and other days I saw it in leaps and bounds.

As time went on though, my progress improved. I regained strength, my balance improved and my speech became easier to understand. At that point my worries shifted more towards how well I would do with my transition back to work. That's when I turned to DHS' Division of Rehabilitation Services (DHS-DRS) and was connected to Vocational Counselor, Pam Geddes. With Pam's guidance and the assistance from DRS, I went from worried to relieved.

Pam assisted me with everything from peer support and counseling and guidance to guiding me through the process of obtaining special accommodations at my work location. Thanks to her assistance I am proud to say that I was back to work approximately one year later.

It's been 2 years now since that chilly morning in April, 2009. I decided to go public and tell my story now in part because May is National Stroke Awareness Month, but also to reinforce how services, like the ones offered through DHS' Division of Rehabilitation, do make a difference in the lives of so many people.

As Deputy Director of Communications, I am charged with communicating to the public about the services offered by DHS. However, now that I've experienced how drastic life can change in the mere blink of an eye, I speak also as a recipient and a success story!


For more information about services that assist people with disabilities in preparing for and finding quality employment, see Vocational Rehabilitation

For more information about assistive technology services and programs to provide independence in recreation, education, vocational and daily living activities for people with disabilities, see the Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP).

To learn more, call 1-877-761-9780 Voice, 1-866-264-2149 TTY, (312) 957-4881 VP, or read about DRS's Services. Refer yourself or someone else for services using the online Rehabilitation Services Web Referral.