My name is Kati. I had a stroke in January 1995, and I have been almost entirely paralyzed with no meaningful movement or able to talk since. I have Locked-In Syndrome, I am trapped inside my body. Let me share a little secret with you;
misery is not a reality; it is a state of mind.
The outer victories are the most celebrated, but we all know (or at least we all should be aware) that the greatest and most important victories come from the challenging battles fought deep inside ourselves.
It was Fall 1994, Los Angeles, California. I was living the best time of my life, living my childhood dream of being a professional model. Only God knows where I got the crazy idea to become a model. A small town Finnish girl all the way on the other side of the world, in the city of angels meeting celebrities like they were ordinary people. Working for big international campaigns, music videos, doing fashion shows, you name it. Crazy hectic time, yet best of times.
For Christmas 1994 I booked a job for a big Finnish company, I didn't even have to audition for it. They wanted me and nobody else. It was perfect timing because I could use this chance to spend the holidays with my family and friends.
It was about 8 o´clock on January the 10th, 1995. My mother and I were watching TV, and suddenly I started feeling weird, much like I was drunk. I couldn't keep my balance; I could hardly walk or talk. The doctors in the emergency room could not figure out what was wrong with me. As mom and I were waiting for some help time ticked by and six hours later, I was completely paralyzed.
I could not catch even breath by myself, the only thing I could move were my eyes, the only thing I could do is howl and cry.
I was completely conscious, I saw, heard and understood what was going on, yet my I could not make my tongue move. I was trapped inside my body, and I could not even let the anxiety out with a yell.
I don't remember much of that tragic night, just bits, and pieces. I do remember hearing a female doctor saying;
a model living in Los Angeles, it must be an overdose.
She was terribly wrong. I never did drugs, I didn't even drink, the most I would drink at a given occasion was two glasses of wine.
I also recall hearing another doctor say;
it may be a stroke
followed by a remark;
impossible, only people over forty get strokes.
He was right, though; I was having a stroke. However, the thought back then that only older people get a stroke. Now we know better, anyone at any age can have a stroke, even if they seem to be healthy as an ox.
It took the doctors three days to finally figured out what has happened. Three days of being strapped to bed looking at the ceiling, hoping and waiting for some treatment. After a total brain scan the doctors noticed that my lower brain, my brain stem was severely damaged. Then they concluded that it must have been a stroke. I was diagnosed with Locked-In Syndrome (LIS) and their verdict was;
that with rehab and some luck I may be able to move a finger someday. It will take a miracle for more than that.
There was still some hope left, or so I thought as I checked into rehab. Six months later even that bit of hope was taken away from me when the therapists said;
sorry, there is nothing else we can do for you.
I was just 21 years old, locked inside myself, sentenced to be completely paralyzed for the rest of my life. I thought to myself;
there is no reason to keep on living, I will never be happy again, none of my dreams will come true.
I was dead wrong. It was not the end, it was the beginning of a new more meaningful life. A life full of purpose.
The miracle I was hoping for never came or did it. We tend to believe that miracles come from heaven and that they tend to give us back what we have lost. But what if miracles come from within, and they give us much more than what we could have ever imagined?
I have reached total acceptance along the way. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when it happened. I probably just grew up into it. I managed to understand that these were the cards that have been dealt with, and there was nothing else left for me to do than just to make the best out of it.
My name is Kati van der Hoeven-Lepistö. On a fateful winter evening, I lost all mobility and speech forever. At first glance, it seemed that fate took everything away from me and that the rest of my life would be as miserable as any life can be or so you might think.
Hmm... let me share a little secret with you;
misery is not a reality; it is a state of mind. The human spirit is powerful, it is invincible.