Brisa Alfaro suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma, giving her doctors and family little hope that she would survive. A week later, the 34-year-old woke up in the horror of locked-in syndrome, a rare condition in which her mind was functioning perfectly, but her body was completely paralyzed.
She was unable to move, or speak, and while Alfaro was completely aware of her surroundings, her family and doctors had no way of knowing. I wanted them to know I was awake," she said. "I wanted them to know I could hear them and remember things."
Things got even more unbearable when she overheard doctors discussing her fate. "When I head the doctor say I might not make it I was terrified," she remembered. "It was like being in a terrible dream — but one which I was awake in."
The only reason Alfaro was alive at all, she said, is because she was already in the hospital being treated for a severe allergic reaction when she suffered the stroke. After a week of suffering through locked-in syndrome, Alfaro eventually was able to twitch her finger, and then progressed from there. For three months she was fed through a tube, and had to endure intense rehab to regain her motor skills.
"I was progressing so much faster than anyone hoped," she said. "I started going to a gym and, with the help of a trainer, lifted very small weights." While her life has changed dramatically since her stroke, she knows she's lucky to be alive. "My life has changed beyond recognition," she said. "But having been in a coma — and woken up from it — I know how luck I am."
(Photo: LWA-Sharie Kennedy/Corbis)