Leading this journey are Debra Meyerson and Steven Zuckerman, a married couple who travel across the country in tandem. In 2010, Debra was a healthy, fit mother of three and working as a professor at Stanford University when she suffered a massive stroke. After three years of almost full-time therapy, she was still struggling with ongoing communication problems from aphasia and was unable to return to her job as a professor, leaving Debra devastated.
Drawing on her academic background, Debra decided to write a book to share her story and that of 25 other survivors, hoping to let others know they are not alone. The award-winning book Identity Theft: Rebuilding Ourselves After Stroke was published in 2019. It was around this time that Steve and Debra founded Stroke Onward, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring stroke survivors and their supporters have the resources they need to rebuild identities and live worthwhile lives. Now they’re going one step further and doing a cross-country bike ride with 79 stops along the way.
They are joined on the journey by two other survivors – Michael Obel-Omia and Whitney Hardy. Michael Obel-Omia, an educator, suffered a stroke in 2016. Like Debra, he suffers from persistent aphasia and has used poetry to regain communication (and published a book, Aphasia Poetry). Whitney Hardy, 34, a close family friend, was hit by a car while jogging and suffered life-threatening traumatic brain injuries. Each participant has a unique story about how their brain injury led to dramatic life changes and how they don’t let that define them. They will also be joined by Steve and Debra’s Goldendoodle Rusti – she rides behind them or the support vehicle in her ‘Tail Wagon’ – ready with a cuddle for anyone who needs it.
Stroke Across America invites everyone to join the journey and get involved in this effort. Participants can participate virtually (link to website) or in person (link to website). Plus, enjoy a daily video update