She was 31 when it hit her — a stroke. She couldn’t talk or walk. She felt as if she was locked inside herself. Her first new word was “help,” and that’s all she said for a month.
Doctors said she might never walk or talk again, but for Valerie Greene that was never an option. She was going to conquer her stroke, and she was going to do it with all the strength and courage she could conjure up.
“God doesn’t choose sissies,” Greene said.
And she knows she was chosen. Chosen to be the voice of stroke survivors, to educate and to shine a light on a topic that people just don’t talk about.
“Stroke has always had this dark cloud surrounding it,” she said.
Greene is out to shed some light through that cloud throughout Central Florida and beyond, by holding awareness and charity events though the non-profit organization Femmes De Coeur, or “Women of Heart,” and her online stroke support community BCenter.com
Now more than a decade after her stroke, while Greene is still partially paralyzed on her left side, she can walk and now talks for a living. The Winter Park native has written two inspirational books and speaks to audiences about her journey to recovery.
In March she launched BCenter, an online global stroke resource center. At BCenter.com stroke survivors can learn more about the causes and treatments of stokes from around the world, all of which Greene has tried herself and reports her opinion on. There’s a network of support there, where survivors and their families and friends can connect with each other, and a list of providers that Greene has approved herself. On BCenter, Greene says, survivors can find all the resources needed for a “restoration of the soul.”
She hopes to show survivors that having a stroke isn’t the end. Once a successful businesswoman, she now travels the country speaking to survivors about her triumphs after her stroke. After speeches, she meets with the audience, and always makes each survivor stand up — not always an easy task — to get a photo with her. But afterward they all beam with accomplishment, and so does Greene, knowing she’s pushed someone to work hard and take a chance.
“I’m going to prove to you that I can do this; I’m going to prove to this world that there is life after stroke, and you can do it abundantly,” she said. “So who better to tell them than me… I was one of them — I was their own.”
“Now her career is saving lives,” said longtime friend Nancy DeVault.
Living life to the fullest
See Valerie Greene dance in Femmes De Coeur’s “Let Us Entertain You,” an evening of dancing and music, on Sunday, May 20, at the Ballroom at Church Street in Orlando. For tickets, visit FemmesDeCoeur.org
For more information about BCenter and Valerie Greene, visit BCenter.com
Greene certainly lives her life abundantly. She said she’ll try anything once, and that’s included parasailing, hang gliding and, most recently, dancing. She’ll waltz away at the Femmes De Coeur charity event in May, a Dancing with the Stars-like competition to raise funds for nursing scholarships for several Central Florida colleges. It hasn’t been an easy task, considering her left leg and hand are still paralyzed, but Greene said she will be out there swishing her skirt across the dance floor.
“Dancing was a new frontier altogether for me… it forces you to reach outside yourself,” she said. “What’s wrong with going forward, let’s try the impossible, let’s try something new.”
But she doesn’t ever forget her past. Greene’s home is decorated with reminders of what she’s gone through. Framed by her kitchen is a cane she used to have to walk with, in her dining room there’s a mural that represents her recovery, and all along the wall of her staircase, which she climbs many times a day with purpose and a deliberate energy, are her stories of success.
One framed victory is of the time she ran a half marathon, finishing despite being sure her leg was bleeding, it hurt so badly. There was absolutely no way she’d let the truck, which is there to pick up stragglers, take away her goal of completing the race. And that’s how Greene is about every step of her life. She’s fought for everything she’s accomplished, and she isn’t stopping anytime soon. She jokes that maybe when she’s 90 and bored she’ll finally have the time to start her own clothing and shoe line.
She’s determined to show people that the impossible is possible, and to never give up. Her personal trainer, Gary Anger, said she exhibits that every time they work together.
“I love a fighter,” he said. “I love when a person comes through an adverse situation and is a champion.”
Friend and stroke survivor Nancy Johnson agreed. “She inspires me constantly … she just won’t ever give in.”