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Monument Health patient shares lifetime of experience

Monument Health patient, Judy Donahue

Judy Donahue is no stranger to tough battles. She has been fighting chronic illness most of her life. Her battle with cancer started when was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 14. At 31 she was diagnosed with a glomus jugulare tumor. One of the toughest battles came when Judy was in her 40’s and she suffered a stroke during an angiogram in Minneapolis. This wasn’t completely unexpected, it’s a risk during that procedure, but she did consider it a remote one. “I was warned that it might happen,” Judy said, “but I had three prior angiograms that didn’t cause a stroke.”

After her stroke, Judy was in a coma for nearly three weeks before she was transferred to Rapid City Hospital to continue her healing. When she arrived she and her physical therapists got to work, fighting for her health. As Judy described it, her team never gave up on her. “They strive for the best, and they help you strive for the best,” she said.

When Judy started her rehabilitation she couldn’t walk or talk. Her team set the goal to have her walking by the next morning, and she said she was walking with help by the end of the day. She still had a lot of work ahead of her. “I would work with the rehab team four hours in the morning and then two in the afternoon,” Judy remembered, “and then I would go back to my room and work every two hours.” She said her children were her saving grace through a lot of those difficult times. “My son is 30 now. He has never known me without having health issues.”

Judy had to learn to adjust to life after her stroke, even after rehabilitation. “I had a left brain stroke, which affected my right side,” she said “I had to learn to do things like brush my teeth and work with my left hand. My right side is still affected to this day.” After her rehabilitation she needed a neurologist. She began care with Matthew Simmons, M.D., a Neurologist with the Neurology and Rehabilitation Clinic and started the next chapter in her healing and life. She has been working with Dr. Simmons for the last ten years and has a lot of praise for him. “He’s an amazing man and a very thorough doctor,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of doctors and he is probably one of the best listeners.” That was key for Judy. For her, communication and empathy from her doctors is what helped them stand out.

Judy continues to work on her health and manages to stay busy. She recently published a book titled, “My Blessings are Different,” about her life and her struggles with her health over that time. She wrote the book for two reasons: one was as an act of praise, because her faith has been an important pillar in her life; the other reason was to help people who might need it. As Judy put it, “If I help even one person with my book, then it’s done what it was supposed to do.”

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