Amber Miller is a 39 year old super-mom of four who performed a heroic action to save a child’s life which resulted in her suffering a devastating stroke. It was Thanksgiving Day in 2015, and Amber was enjoying dinner with family and friends when she noticed something was terribly wrong. Without hesitation, Amber selflessly jumped into the pool and rescued her friend’s child from drowning. That evening, Amber noticed that she was experiencing heart palpitations and a severe headache which she attributed to the severe anxiety she was feeling from the day’s rescue.
However, that wasn’t it at all! Sometime during the night, Amber suffered a massive cerebral stroke and was unable to call out or get downstairs for help. Her 17 year old daughter, Carisa, found her the next morning on the floor.
Amber was life-flighted from her home in Palm Coast to Orlando for an emergency craniotomy. Amber’s neurologist told her mother, Lynn, that Amber’s prognosis wasn’t good and that it was a miracle that she survived. Amber was an 11 minute helicopter ride away from death. Amber did survive despite the odds and spent close to a month in the hospital and away from her children.
Amber’s stroke caused paralysis on her right side, and Aphasia which prevents her from speaking, reading and writing. Amber lost her job and struggled with medical bills and supporting her family with zero income. Her children were forced to leave their home, school and comfort to move in with Amber’s mother so that she would have help. Her children described feelings of isolation, loneliness and confusion during this time due to their mother’s inability to communicate.
However, Amber refused to give up! With determination, focus, and passion, she was able to walk with the use of a quad cane, work out on a daily basis and drive in only 8 short months after her stroke. Amber’s strides were monumental. However, despite her energy, enthusiasm and hard work, she was still unable to speak. For Amber, her Aphasia had proved to be a far more devastating struggle than her physical disabilities. Amber feared that she had lost control of her family and felt like a stranger to them because she was not able to communicate effectively with them.
When Amber and her family heard about the Aphasia House at the University of Central Florida, they once again felt a glimmer of hope. Amber fervently needed her family, independence and goal oriented lifestyle back and believed that the intensive speech and communication therapy provided by Aphasia House could help her accomplish these goals and bring awareness to the community about Aphasia, surviving and hope. She was evaluated and accepted into the UCF program, but once again, there was an obstacle in her way. Amber was unable to afford the program.
This is where SCSAF came into the picture. Amber’s mother, Lynn, sent an email to SCSAF explaining Amber’s story and dilemma. True to their mission, SCSAF happily sponsored Amber’s Intensive Aphasia Treatment.
Today, Amber is doing much better. She is thankful for the help SCSAF provided to her and shares that not only did SCSAF help her speak and write again....but also gave her back her self-confidence, hope, friends and family. By opening up her communication abilities, she has been able to reconnect with her family and has recently started a book about her life. Her daughter, Carisa, shares that she can't imagine what would have happened to her mom’s spirit, family, or self-esteem had she not been given this opportunity. It was life-changing!
Amber believes it is important to raise stroke awareness because it's not just an "old people" issue--it's happening to younger and younger people every day and it does not discriminate when it strikes. Her message to people who have just suffered a stroke is to stay strong, don't lose hope and to learn to embrace and adjust to this new way of living and be a WARRIOR!