Andrea Oswald has been a runner for more than 25 years. And she’s loved it. In 2014, she completed her first triathlon with her sister, checking off a big “bucket list” goal.
The race would be her last athletic triumph for a long time. In May 2015, Andrea suffered three unexpected—and terrifying—strokes. Without knowing it, she’d torn an artery in her neck. The blood clot from the tear flicked off and blocked bloodflow to her brain in three different places. The world started spinning and, as she recalls, “I just went down. We rushed to the ER.”
While at the ER, her husband, a doctor, told the attending staff about Andrea’s neck pain. His insistence on her having a scan saved Andrea’s life. Soon she was in an ambulance headed for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, renowned for its stroke care.
After treatment and release, Andrea faced a long road to recovery. She needed round-the-clock care for three months as well as ongoing physical therapy. Struggling with balance issues, she couldn’t walk without holding onto someone or something. Her husband, sister, and mother arranged a list of friends and family to stay with Andrea and help her care for her two young boys. The family called it her “ladysitter” list.
Naturally, discouragement set in. Andrea missed her active lifestyle—and her doctors weren’t certain she could ever resume running, biking, or swimming. One day in 2016, she stopped in to Runners High’n Tri, where she’d shopped for 20 years, to purchase new running shoes. Those shoes served as a beacon of hope for her.
More than two years later, Andrea is back to running. She completed her first 5K this month and is already looking forward to competing in the same triathlon again with her sister next year as a celebration of her recovery. “if I can do that after what I’ve gone through, I can do anything,” Andrea says. “I’m so lucky to be where I am. For me, the right attitude was everything in recovery.”