Name: Carol Henshaw.
Family: Bill, husband of 52 years; two sons, Brant and Brian; three grandsons.
Out and about: Less than a year and a half after suffering a stroke, Henshaw usually exercises four times a week and is back to working in her beautiful and beloved garden. She's pretty much back to normal, but had to work hard to get there.
"I am so much better now," she says. "I am really thrilled about it."
Total surprise: "My stroke came out of nowhere, originating in the right side of my head," she says. "I really don't know what caused it. But I feel very fortunate to be back doing things I love."
Waited for help: Henshaw suffered her stroke early one morning in April 2011.
"My whole right side wouldn't work and I couldn't speak," she recalls. "Somehow, I found my way to a chair and waited. Bill had gone to the gym. I was very fortunate because he always comes home after going to the gym instead of to work (at Windermere Real Estate). We think it was about an hour from the time I had my stroke to the time he found me and took me to St. Joseph."
Rehabilitation begins: "After I spent three days at St. Joseph I went to the South Campus for a week to begin rehabilitation. I remember I dressed myself and I walked in. What I did there was very difficult, but necessary to get better. I remember how impressed I was with the staff."
Three therapies: "I went through three types of therapy: reading therapy, a form of therapy where I worked at preparing meals and tasks like that, and physical therapy, where I did a lot of different exercises and also some swimming," she says.
"I worked on my balance, to be sure I could do that, and I would sleep between sessions. I remember how much I wanted to get my sleep."
Steady recovery: "My recovery was gradual, and I think I'm still doing things to recover," says Henshaw, who was back home less than two weeks after her stroke.
For the first four months or so she had home attendants who visited from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., then had family members and friends with her until 4 p.m., so she wouldn't have to be alone.
"You know what? I missed the company when I didn't need (all the attention). I really liked having all that company."
Regular exercise: Henshaw now spends more than an hour at Bellingham Athletic Club on Mondays and Fridays, working out on bicycles and machines and doing stretching exercises. She's also taking tai chi classes for an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Bellingham Senior Activity Center. The workouts enable her to practice a variety of movements.
"I'm enjoying all this very much," she says. "I'm new to tai chi. I had never done that and I found I wanted to try it. I would tell anyone to try it to see what it's like."
Back to gardening: Henshaw has loved gardening ever since she was a farm girl in Iowa, learning how to drive a tractor at age 10. Her gorgeous garden, the product of much work this spring, is evidence that, as she puts it, "I feel my status is wonderful."
She was pleased recently when she was told she would not have to return to a class at Western Washington University for people who have had strokes.
Career in education: Henshaw came to Bellingham with Bill and still lives in the same home they bought near Broadway Park 40 years ago. She earned degrees from Iowa State Teachers' College (now the University of Northern Iowa), and the University of Washington. She spent much of her early married life as a homemaker, then embarked on a 16-year career teaching English as a second language at Bellingham Technical College.
Loved her work: "I really enjoyed teaching ESL, because every day was a different day," she says. "I tried very hard to teach my students as much as I could, because I knew their time in my classes would be limited. They had to find jobs."
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.