Feb 14
Guest Speaker: Lisa Stuckel

Near-Death Experiences from seven major brain surgeries and two strokes, profoundly changed a young woman into a dedicated volunteer who now changes others' lives.

While she was a college student at U of I in Champaign-Urbana, after she experienced lots of migraine headaches and seizures, Lisa Stuckel was told that she had an Arterio-Venous Malformation (AVM). This problem is genetic, but Lisa didn’t want to deal with it because she thought, “I have my fantastic life, and I do not want anything to stand in my way.” In 1990, in her late 20s, she finally elected to have brain surgery to correct the AVM.

Before 1990, Lisa thought she had it all. She calls it her 1st life. She had a fantastic career. She was the Regional Manager of ten Carson Pirie Scott stores in Illinois and Wisconsin. She also started her own successful jewelry design business, called “Box Barge.” She had “the most perfect boyfriend” who, like Lisa, had a creative career, was physically active, with a supportive family and lots of friends. And, right before her medical trauma, Lisa had just purchased a brand new Chrysler LeBaron.

Later in her twenties, Lisa’s seizures started to get much more frequent and escalated to much more intense, grand mal seizures. She thought eventually she might die from them, or that she might kill someone in her car if she ever had a seizure while driving. She knew she could not continue to live with that pressure anymore.

In 1988, with her father and her neurologist, they researched to find the best neurosurgeon in the country. She flew to several cities to meet the doctors and to look at their hospitals. She chose Dr. Robert Spetzler, a neurosurgeon from St. Joseph\'s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Barrow Neurological Institute. When she met him and looked at his hospital, she felt it all clicked for her. She thought she would have brain surgery, a couple of months of therapy, and then she would be back at work. However, on a scale of 1-5, and 5 being the worst and largest malformation, Lisa had a 5. Also, Dr Spetzler did warn Lisa that strokes are a risk factor with this type of surgery, but that didn’t deter her. She knew she had to do it.

Dr. Spetzler realized that because the malformation was so large, he would have to operate on it a small section at a time. So, all together, Lisa suffered 2 strokes during 7 brain surgeries!! For a while she was in a drug-induced coma and she only had a 50/50 chance of living. When she started to recover, she was paralyzed on her whole left side, she was blind, she could not walk, talk or even dress herself. Everyone looked at her as if she was a baby, starting over again! Lisa’s family was told that Lisa would never again live on her own. It was a devastating time in her still young life.

Lisa felt that through the power from the Beings Up Above, through excellent doctors, through a fabulous therapist, and maybe most important, through the Power Within, she utilized the true keys to recovery.

After Lisa\'s medical madness, she lost her first life! She lost her career, her boyfriend, her car, her apartment, her sense of humor, some of her memory and even her personality! She also lost some close relationships that she used to have from brothers, sisters and friends. Lisa was depressed in the beginning of her recovery, only to realize that the depression was only hindering her from getting better faster. The key that she felt helped her the most, was recognition of the FIGHTER within herself. Through hard work during therapies, through positive thinking, through the power of prayer…..who knows how far we can soar? Even though most of her doctors told her that she would recover in about 12 years, her recovery has been almost 20 years, and she feels that she is still recovering. She always thinks: Do not ever give up!

When Lisa was told that she had a 50/50 chance of living, she had a Spiritual experience! She will tell you that she was not a perfect person in any way, and she still can not believe that it happened. One night when she was in bed but not sleeping, she saw Jesus! He said to her: “You are going to get better, and you will need to help others who are going through similar experiences to yours.”

About three years after her rehabilitation, she started to volunteer at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She volunteers on the 6W floor, the rehabilitation unit helping mostly brain injured, stroke, and amputee patients. Finally, she realized why she is still here on this earth…to help others in recovery. She also volunteers at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center in Wheaton, Il, where she was also a patient in 1990. For a while, in the late 1990s she was also doing volunteer work at the American Heart Association and at Alexian Brothers Medical Center.

Lisa feels, even though she lost so much of her first life, she gained 3x more in this 2nd life. Even though she had to start over again, she looks at it as “Thank God I have the opportunity to start over!” She also married a fine, loving man about 5 years ago, and today she is much more dedicated to her health. She exercises and jogs, and sleeps twice as much as the old days, because she is so much more organized. She drinks a lot less coffee and alcohol. She even feels she is a better person and her Spiritual side is much stronger. She continues to focus on the positive things of life, calling them “the keys to health and happiness. “