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When ‘Rioke Suffered a Stroke, She Thought She’d Never Sing Again! Read Her Story of Strength, Determination & Victory Over Aphasia

BellaNaija.com

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The month of May has been designated the national stroke awareness month in the US. In light of this, BellaNaija using the opportunity to inform, educate and enlighten our readers about strokes.

This medical condition is prevalent in Nigeria and a lot of times knowing what to look out for, or even what to do when you experience the symptoms, will prevent long term damage.

In 2012, BellaNaijarian, ‘Rioke suffered a stroke, and as a result of the stroke, she lost her ability to speak. For someone who loved to sing, this was a particularly harrowing time for her. The path to recovery has been long and hard, and the aphasia is still something that she has to deal with everyday. It took about 8 months, from the time she suffered the stroke, to when she first spoke. At the time, she had to go for therapy 3 times a week. Those visits have now reduced to once a year.

‘Rioke has chosen to share her story with us, and here’s why: “I had asked God what I should do after the incident and I felt that I should talk about my story to raise awareness about stroke and aphasia and how to be healthy and live a healthy lifestyle.”

We hope you learn something from this story.

***
My name is ‘Rioke; I was born on the 21st of July 1971 in Madison, Wisconsin USA.
I’m what you would call a “Daddy’s girl” and proud of it! I attended Staff School University of Ibadan and then went on to International School Ibadan (ISI) for my secondary education. I graduated with a BSc in Geology from the University of Ibadan then proceeded to Michigan State University for my Masters in Environment Geology, which I attained in 1996.

I’m a fun, lively person who enjoys adventure.

I got married to Tetteh Pecku in 1996. There was a delay in conceiving and I had to undergo fertility treatment. It was a difficult phase to go through but through it all, God was faithful and HE blessed us with twin girls (Mide and Mikun) in 2001.

In the course of my pregnancy, I developed Post partum Cardiomyopathy, a rare type of heart failure that occurs during pregnancy or immediately after delivery. This condition weakens the heart muscles and causes the heart to become enlarged.

As a result of this condition, I was put on various medications to manage it. God has helped and sustained me despite this condition and I have lived a full life regardless of the fact that the enemy has tried to throw my way.

I wanted to have more children but was advised not to under any circumstances because I could die during the pregnancy. It was tough to deal with initially but after a while, I was able to accept it.

After having my twins, life was quite busy with work, marriage, the children and most importantly – Ministry and my purpose! I know that God has called me to sing and that I do very passionately. I have been a part of the Music Ministry at my home church, Jesus House DC for 20 years.

During that time, I was the Head of Dept for 7 years and the Minister in charge of JHMM for 9 years. I worked as a Business Analyst for 12 years in various organizations in the greater Washington DC area and enjoyed my job but true fulfillment for me came from singing.

The month of March is usually extremely busy at my church – we have an annual program called BIAZO. In Feb 2012, shortly before a busy BIAZO month, I decided to make a quick trip to Nigeria and…POW just like that, the day after I got to Nigeria, I had a stroke while I was in Asaba, Delta State.

I couldn’t speak or write. At this point, I didn’t realize that I had had a stroke. Something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what it was. I was flown to Lagos the next day where I was met by my parents and taken to a hospital in Ibadan.

I must say that God showed His love for me through a very loving family and great support system – My parents, my husband, my children, my brother , my sis-in-law Wawam, Pastor Ghandi (PG).

My mom flew back to the US with me after a few days and I was taken to Washington hospital Center directly from the airport. It was there that I underwent an MRI and was told that I had a blood clot in my brain that had burst and that I was even lucky to be alive. LOOK AT GOD!

It truly has been an arduous journey for me, but I bless God because all things are working for my good. I believe He has given me a second chance.

I remember when I was told that I have aphasia – I was confused, had so many questions and didn’t know what to do.

Will I sing again? I asked God why…what should I do? Should I fight or should I die now? It was in that quiet moment in the hospital I heard God say to me – FIGHT AND TRUST ME! That Word from Him gave me the strength, courage and the will to fight and to carry on and push myself to recover all even when I felt like giving up.

Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write, usually caused by brain injury (in this case, the brain injury was caused by my stroke).

I lost the ability to speak, read or write and almost lost the ability to move my left hand. I underwent two procedures –one to place a defibrillator in my chest and the other about a week later, to adjust the defibrillator when it seemed to be the cause of blood vessel blockage.

I remember one time I was driving to the gym and I had a seizure – it was God’s grace that kept me from hitting another vehicle and causing serious damage.

The Road To Recovery
I had to go through speech therapy for several months. It was quite frustrating for me when I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to. My daughters helped me re-learn my ABC and 123s and also with the exercises from my speech therapy sessions. Not being able to sing was the hardest thing for me.

I cried the first time I went to church and couldn’t sing during praise and worship. I had to learn to be patient with myself especially and trust God like I’d never done before.

My parents, my husband, my children, my brother and his wife, my pastor – Pastor Ghandi and my entire Jesus House DC family were a great support for me. They encouraged and challenged me in different ways.

Pastor Ghandi truly motivated and challenged me beyond my limits. When I wasn’t even ready to attend church service, he spoke to me and told me that he wanted me to be in church and for me to sit where I usually sit (in the front row by the choir). At one of our monthly Ministers meetings, as the discussion was going on, PG (as we fondly call him) asked my opinion on the issue. I initially didn’t want to say anything because it was difficult for me to get my words out correctly, but everyone turned to me and waited to hear what I had to say and they paid attention. I honestly can’t remember what I said but that gesture made a lasting impression on me and helped in the process of me regaining my self confidence.

Singing Again
Now, this was a HUGE deal for me. I so wasn’t ready and I didn’t think I could do it. We had a worship service coming up in church November 2014 and Pastor Ghandi simply said to me “Rioke you’re singing at that service”. My response was that I would think about it but he wasn’t having any of that – it was pretty much an order… because he said I should just do it and not think about it. That motivated me to believe in myself; to push past all my fears and insecurities; to believe that I could use my voice again to do what God has called me to do and by His grace alone, I got on stage for the first time in over 2 years and I sang!!

All I can say is that God showed up and showed out! All the glory is HIS and His alone. After my ministration, I was humbled at the reception and the outpouring of love from my church family and it made me realize that being able to minister to God’s people truly is a privilege – I think I was beginning to lose sight of that and thought it was my right before the incident happened. God heals and restores to the utmost!

Lessons Learned
1. Seek out your God given purpose and walk in it because we don’t know how long we have on this earth. God has given us gifts to glorify HIM – this we need to do while we have life and breath.

2. Pay attention to your body and avoid too much stress.

3. Live  a Healthy lifestyle
From 310 lbs to 180 lbs. Before my stroke, I had always struggled with my weight. At my heaviest, I was 310lbs. I worked on losing weight, but it was a struggle. When you are overweight, it puts a lot of stress on your organs and that is not good. I had managed to lose about 30lbs before the stroke, but I was still overweight. After I had the stroke, I made some drastic changes to my lifestyle and it helped me to lose the weight.

These are some of the lifestyle choices I made…

Healthy Diet – Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you prevent stroke. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your chances of having a stroke.

Healthy Weight -Being overweight or obese increases your risk for stroke. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI . Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure excess body fat.

Physical Activity – Physical activity can help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as a brisk walk, each week. Children and teens should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

No Smoking – Smoking greatly increases your chances of having a stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for stroke.

Limit Alcohol – Avoid drinking too much alcohol since alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one.

4. Signs of a stroke… FAST!

F -FACE DROOPING.
Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?

A – ARM WEAKNESS
Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – SPEECH DIFFICULTY
Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the person able to correctly repeat the words?

T – TIME TO CALL 9-1-1.
If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and say, “I think this is a stroke” to help get the person to the hospital immediately. Time is of the essence! Don’t delay, and also note the time when the first symptoms appeared. Emergency responders will want to know.

Awareness
Raising awareness and speaking out!
May is Stroke Awareness Month
Stroke can happen to anyone, at any time, at any age. In America today, stroke in young adults is increasing at an alarming rate. On top of that, 73% of young Americans are not familiar with stroke symptoms and the need for urgent medical attention. National Stroke Awareness Month is an annual event held within the United States. The aim of National Stroke Awareness Month is to make Americans aware that they may be able to ‘Save A Life’ of a person experiencing a stroke.

Final word

7 “For there is hope for a tree,If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,And that the shoots of it will not cease nor fail, [but there is no such hope for man].
8 “Though its roots grow old in the earth And its stump dies in the dry soil,
9 Yet at the scent of water [the stump of the tree] will flourish And bring forth sprigs and shoots like a seedling. Job 14:7-9Amplified Bible (AMP)

***
Watch Rioke sing in church

21 Comments

  1. Fleur

    May 9, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Aaaah, Rioke! it’s been almost 8 years! I am glad you are doing better. The story you’ve offered is one of grace and resilience in the face of an unholy attack from the pit of hell! Bella Naijans this is one lady that can belt out God’s own melodies! #gifted I miss your voice + shaffy who is now in Nollywood apparently.

  2. girlwithalbinorelatives

    May 9, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Amazing!!!!! God is great. Awesome testimony

  3. Marian

    May 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Wow! As someome who worked on a stroke unit for 3years i really do thank God for your life because you are definitely very blessed and lucky. I’ve had multiple patients who had the right help on time at the right facility who did not make it.
    Uncontrolled High blood pressure is one of the big ones too. Will BN be doing a follow up article for people in Nigeria? Are all hospitals in Nigeria equipped to start tpn? A STAT CT scan is very important and i doubt every hospital in Nigeria has one. We should have a list available to the public of hospitals that are able to manage stroke in every state. I was going to take this project on a few years ago but got sidetracked with other stuff. (Projects like this are hard to do outside of Nigeria and i have to save up for my unborn kids for now)

  4. Olola

    May 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    OMG!!! I know Rioke nee Ekpebu. I thank and bless God for your life. May you always have reasons to glorify Him.

  5. Browsing

    May 9, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Ms Rioke !!!! I thank God for your life
    Saw you in church last Sunday. You are a walking testimony
    Love you much !
    To anyone going through similar issues or any health problems, please be encouraged.
    I pray God will touch and resolve any malfunction in your body !
    It’s important to stay on top of your health, don’t negate yearly physicals, mammograms, scopys where applicable.

  6. Grace

    May 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Praise the mighty Jesus. Thank God for a Pastor who stood by you in times of trouble. Praise the Lord for a good husband, children and church family. Your weight loss is also encouraging. Anybody can lose weight. You were so overweight and look at you now

  7. o

    May 9, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I’m so happy for her. Congratulations. Thank God for her healing and for access to good medical care. Not everyone gets a second chance.

  8. Ms B

    May 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Awesome! thank God for victory! Inspirational testimony!

  9. Michy

    May 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Thank God for your life and healing

  10. C

    May 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    I’m really happy for her recovery. However, I believe it is spelt Aphagia – A:Absence + phago: tongue/speech

  11. ToyinB

    May 9, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    I am so proud of you, Sis!!! God is GREAT!

  12. Prof. Johnson A. Ekpere

    May 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Rioke is nee EKPERE.
    She is the daughter of Prof. Johnson and Mrs. Marie EKPERE.
    We continue to thank God and her church family, particularly Pastor Ghandi for their support and the several doctors used by God to heal her, and in WHOM we trust will complete and perfect her healing.

  13. P. Cee

    May 10, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Dcns. Ree! I’m sure you already know how much I thank God for your life and testimony. Our God is soooo gooood!

  14. TeeA29

    May 10, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    We really thank God for Rioke’s life. He is indeed a miracle worker…. need a proof that Jesus heals? Look for Riri…Rioke. Love you much girl!!!

  15. Preciousgirl

    May 10, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Wow, Just shed a tear. God is awesome. Voice totally restored.

  16. KOJ

    May 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Aunty Rioke,
    The real MVP. I bless God for you!

  17. David Kunle Agunbiade

    May 12, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Had.no idea Roke went through such a harrowing ordeal. My heart blesses God that you came out with this wonderful testimony. Ride on into the greatness ahead of you.

  18. Fadekemi Olumide

    June 6, 2017 at 8:13 am

    My home girl Rioke, I’m so very proud of you!! Your story is truly inspirational and I join you in thanking God. May you continue to overcome. I hope we can all learn the vital medical, life and faith lessons your experience provides. Our faith, our families, our health – these are the things that really matter in life. Thank you Rioke for sharing your story with the world – you go girl!

  19. Mettabel

    June 12, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    The power of my Deep and Limitless God!!!! Rioke I am awed by God in you!

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