Congratulations to Lauren Forney, a Spring 2023 Winner of the Auger & Auger Disabled Scholar Award
Author: Auger Law | May 15th, 2023
The one crucial fact many people may not realize about disabilities is that, at some point, they may affect you. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that around 36% of all individuals 65 and older report at least one disability. That statistic illustrates that, to a large degree, the disabled population of the United States will either some day include us, or someone we know.
For some individuals, that day comes much sooner than they expected. Our recent recipient of our Auger & Auger Scholarship for Individuals With Disabilities, Lauren Forney, experienced this realization at the age of 18, an age many people consider to be the peak of their physical prime. While working out at the gym, she suffered a sudden stroke, with no prior warning signs. After a hospital stay and physical rehabilitation, she was able to regain full control over her functions, but small signs of the stroke still linger.
More aware than ever that every day of life is a gift — and that we must also pay close attention to our body’s needs — Lauren is now at college pursuing an undergrad degree that will serve as her pathway into the medical profession. She knows to rely heavily on her support system, including her parents, roommates, teachers, and her own inner voice. Through self care and self reflection, she is able to stay strong, healthy, and engaged in order to attain the credentials that will someday enable her to care for others.
Know the Signs of a Stroke, and Act F.A.S.T.
Even as a teenager, Lauren understood the value of self care and self improvement. That’s why she regularly went to the gym after attending high school classes. Cardiovascular and strength-training exercises are both important to reducing your risk of chronic disease and other medical complications. But even with this level of care, no one is 100% immune to acute health events.
The day of her stroke, though, it was another important thing that perhaps saved Lauren’s life: her own self understanding. She was able to recognize that something wasn’t right in the middle of her workout.
“While at the gym I began to feel different and decided to call it quits on my workout. I went to return my weights, and I dropped them. I stood there frozen, in a fog. I suffered blurred vision, loss of function on my right side, massive headache on the left side of my head coupled with tingling of my face. I was afraid.”
Not knowing exactly what was happening to her, but knowing she was in danger, she called her best friend to take her to the doctor. According to experts, this instinct to respond quickly to a possible stroke could have saved her from an even greater loss of function, potentially even saving her life.
In the event that you or someone else experiences a sudden change in the way they feel and think, always remember the signs you need to act F.A.S.T. and seek immediate medical attention.
- Facial drooping,
- Arm weakness, and
- Speech difficulties all mean it’s
- Time to call 911
Having experienced the event first-hand, Lauren now has some critical advice for anyone who could be experiencing a stroke.
“There are various warning signs that could indicate a stroke, and it’s crucial to be aware of them in order to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some of these warning signs include feelings of exhaustion or fatigue, experiencing brain fog, sharp pain in your calf, loss of function on one side of your body (typically the left side), tingling or numbness in your face, blurred vision and a severe headache. It’s important to note that these symptoms may not all occur at once, and the severity and duration of each symptom may vary from person to person. In May of 2022, I personally experienced all of these symptoms during my episode, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and responding promptly to these warning signs. I recommend either calling 911 or having someone drive you to the emergency room immediately.”
Find Strength and Solace in Others — And in Yourself
As one might expect, Lauren was extremely distraught in the first few days after her stroke. She was grateful to be alive, but fearful about what her future might hold.
Fortunately, her parents were there to uplift her. Her dad reminded her of a biblical story of a man who lost everything dear to him but was able to still persevere — and be rewarded — thanks to his unwavering faith. Initially, the story made Lauren feel dismayed. But then, taking its message to heart, she began to do everything in her power to recover and not let her medical setbacks prevent her from achieving the life she wanted to live.
After her hospitalization, Lauren says she spent the summer before college attending her physical therapy sessions three times a week. Not only that, but she attended meditation classes while also “learning to relax and breathe.”
Her dedication and perseverance paid off. She is now in her first year of college, and she has regained full function in her right side. Most importantly, through the power of self-motivation and taking the time to reflect, she has affirmed that can continue to “BELIEVE again that all things are possible.”
Through her journey, Lauren says her family has been an invaluable source of encouragement and support.
“I am endlessly grateful for their unwavering support, guidance, and advice, as they are always my number one cheerleaders, inspiring me to be the best version of myself. With their unrelenting encouragement, I feel confident that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, and I count myself truly blessed to have them as my parents.”
In her essay she submitted to us, Lauren also reveals her willingness to rely on others in her peer group: she specifically notes that her best friend was the person who brought her to receive the emergency medical care that could have saved her life. She also opens the piece by describing asking her college roommate how she looks before she walks out the door.
Through meditation and mindfulness, Lauren has clearly created a mental support system for herself, but her story also illustrates the collective strength we can find when we are willing to reach out to others for help. We are, in a sense, the people we are because of our community, and because of the kindness and generosity those in our lives are willing to lend to us, no matter how small.
Seeking a Career in Helping Others Through Medicine
Keeping in mind the power of selflessness, Lauren has always focused on serving her community and helping others. She began her own community service program when she was just twelve years old, and her accomplishments have been recognized by two U.S. presidents.
“Community service has been a significant part of my life since the age of 4; making sweet treats for the senior ministry. At the age of 12 while in the 6th grade, I proudly continue my efforts by beginning my own community service academy. I continue today even while attending college to spend my time serving. My passion for community service was further fueled in November when I successfully organized the 10th Annual Canned Food Drive, an initiative that I hold dear to my heart.”
She says she also enjoys baking; she even hosts virtual classes for others, once again demonstrating her willingness to share her gifts with others. She’s also a passionate advocate for social justice initiatives, to the point where she communicated with her congressional representatives during a trip to Washington D.C..
Going to parties and trying out new foods and new places to eat are also on her schedule, so she promises that she is a regular teen, too! And, of course, she always takes time for herself to ensure that she checks in and remains grounded.
“When I’m not busy with community service or advocating for change, I love to indulge in self-care and relaxation such as yoga, meditation, and reading.”
Lauren’s current goal when she graduates is to pursue a career in medicine, either dermatology or gynecology. Both fields helped her immensely during her teen years, and she wishes to provide the same sort of assistance to teens who may be struggling in the future with similar issues.
To this day, none of Lauren’s medical team can trace an exact reason why her stroke happened. By all measures, she was extremely healthy and an outlier in terms of age for a stroke event. Nevertheless, the incident shows that a disability is not something we ask for or expect. It is a hand we are sometimes dealt, and it means we have to face the choice every day to work through our challenges, always in pursuit of the goals that motivate us most.
Reflecting on this, Lauren emphasizes that through her experience “I have learned that my life will look different, but I will achieve all the goals that I have set for myself before the stroke.”
Thanks in large part to the strong foundation she builds for herself and the underlying support of her parents and peer group, she believes that she has a bright future ahead — a belief we at Auger & Auger wholeheartedly share.
We close this post recognizing her with these words of wisdom that ring far deeper than one might expect for such a young soul:
“Obstacles will present themselves in life, but a true warrior reflects, refines, and continues to achieve no matter what.”