When Tedy Bruschi suffered from his first stroke in 2005 at the age of 31, he became an advocate for knowing the signs. He started Tedy's Team to raise awareness and break the stigma of who could be at-risk.
Just more than three months after a "mini-stroke" over the summer, Bruschi surprised a 16-year-old patient at Spaulding Rehab, a person he had never met before but with whom he shares a bond.
In September, Ayden Merchure, a sophomore in high school, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. He was admitted to Hasbro Children's Hospital, where he stayed for about a month and a half before being transferred to Spaulding Rehab in October.
A teenager dealing with a stroke is something no parent ever wants to think about and something most teenagers assume would never happen to them. As horrific as the last two and half months have been for Merchure and his family, his mother, Jess Decorpo, said she was blown away by the strength that her son exhibited through it all.
"I knew he was a mentally strong kid, but this really proved tenfold that that's very, very true," Decorpo said. "He was intubated for 24 hours. When he was extubated, he spoke almost immediately. He wasn't just speaking. He was demanding things. From there on, he really just surprised and amazed everybody at how much he could do and how quickly, how well, after something so significant happened to him. Physically, I've always known that he was strong, but really with something like this especially I think it's more mental than anything."
The resiliency Merchure showed continued to surprise those around him, but Bruschi's visit provided him with a bright spot that will only help him as his recovery continues.
"I feel like it's a memory that's always going to be there and stay with me and help me throughout things that I might not get through on my own," he said.
Bruschi and Merchure talked about their recoveries and posed for a picture. Before leaving, Bruschi signed a football, writing, "From one survivor to another."
Though the visit was a small moment on this road to recovery, both Merchure and Decorpo appreciated Bruschi taking time to share encouragement. Since then, Merchure has returned home, and he hopes his journey helps others learn a crucial lesson.
"I hope that they just learn that nothing is permanent," Merchure said. "Any situation that you're in, or my situation, you can get through it. It's just all about your mindset and how you perceive things."
For Decorpo, she has a new appreciation for life and for the perseverance of her teenage son.
"I didn't think that he was going to live and the fact that I'm sitting here next to him today is something that I won't ever take for granted again," she said. "I'm grateful that I have a child that can still annoy me and still amaze me and still frustrate me and still make me feel overcome with such incredible love. It has put a lot of things for me into perspective and I'm just really, really grateful