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A Birthday, a Spilled Glass of Water and a Stroke

Toi Robinson 1Instinct is the innate ability to respond to certain stimuli. It’s a skill Toi Robinson has relied on her entire life; sometimes in fight or flight situations, and in less dire situations other times. In July 2014, Robinson was in the bedroom of her Klein-area home when she accidentally spilled a glass of water. Her instinct was to clean the mess, but her body didn’t respond as she’d expected.

“When I reached out with my dominant left hand to pick up a towel, my hand was floppy. I could not move it,” Robinson said. “I knew I was experiencing stroke symptoms.”

Suddenly, all of the significant moments in life flashed before Robinson’s eyes. She had just celebrated her 39th birthday, and less than a month later she was in a hospital fighting for her life.

Robinson, a vocational rehabilitation counselor of the past decade, relied on her healthcare background to decide what to do next. She knew time was critical when treating strokes, and the quicker she received medical attention the less likely she would experience long-term neurological and physical mobility effects.

“I went downstairs to my husband and tried to sound as calm as possible when I told him to call 911,” she said. “So many thoughts were running through my mind: What could’ve caused the stroke? Would I recover? Would there be lifelong residual effects?”

Toi Robinson Braces

Paramedics took Robinson to a nearby hospital in Tomball, but she was soon transported to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) after doctors determined she needed a higher level of care, which included a blood transfusion. She remained in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for three days and spent another three days in acute care before being transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands, where she remained for 18 days. Her physicians included Dr. Nicole Gonzales, a neurologist at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth affiliated with Memorial Hermann-TMC, and Dr. Anjail Sharrief, a neurologist at McGovern Medical School affiliated with Memorial Hermann-TMC. The stroke impacted Robinson’s fine motor skills including her ability to walk, write and speak.

“The stroke affected my left side. I had to learn how to use my right hand as my dominant hand. The Memorial Hermann doctors, nurses, therapists and staff were amazing. They took the time to get to know me, understand my goals so that we could work together to develop a plan to create my 'new normal'. I cannot express enough thanks for their investment in my recovery. They pushed me to do my very best!"

Robinson faces each day with optimism despite the challenges. In her occupation, she often communicates with patients using American Sign Language, but said since the stroke, it sometimes takes her longer to convey a message. When she’s not shopping or attending events with family and friends, she’s traveling the world with her husband.

“Life is so precious. Although I have a few mobility challenges since my stroke, it’s not anything that will prevent me from doing the things I love. I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said. “The support of my family and church members has been invaluable. I am so grateful for their love and the expertise of my doctors. I wouldn’t be here today sharing my story, if it were not for them."