MADISONVILLE, Ky (WEHT) The only thing keeping these budding gymnasts on this 4-inch wide beam is the steady hand and cool coaching of Ashley Kearney.
She’s been teaching gymnastics since she was 12 years old. After 31 years, and three kids, Ashley still loves a good backflip nearly as much as she loves instilling life lessons in her students.
“Never give up. Absolutely never give up. You can accomplish anything you really set your mind to.”
And though you’d never know by looking at her, Ashley suffered a stroke last Easter.
Ashley’s husband, Patrick, says it was scary and life changing.
“It was kind of all a blur. You always hear about signs and symptoms, face drooping – she had none of that.”
Ashley says it started gradually, just tripping over her foot at first. By the next morning,
“I opened my eyes and it was blurry, little dizzy, felt confused. Then when foot hit the floor, I knew something was really wrong.”
“She came downstairs and like, trying to walk straight, reaching for the counter to hold herself up. It had gotten bad enough that she couldn’t walk straight when we left the house. By time we got to the ER, I carried – dragged her in.”
The doctor and nurse looked at her and said she had had a stroke.
“Nothing’s been the same since she said those words.”
“She literally couldn’t do anything on her own. Had no idea what caused it. They guessed it could be the pregnancy.”
Ashley was three months pregnant.
“That was my biggest concern. We were very nervous the whole time. We had no idea at that time if the baby was going to be okay.”
Doctors put Ashley in intensive in-patient rehabilitation. Patrick says she spent three months of relearning the basics.
“She was not able to walk at all. She had a lot of trouble with speech, terrible stutter, had a hard time finding words, still does. She was on a treadmill with a harness on her to keep up straight and it took 30 minutes to go a tenth of a mile.”
And through it all, Ashley was always worried about baby.
“Fear, absolute fear. the unknowing… not knowing what lies ahead.”
Around the Fourth of July, Ashley finally was able to go home using a walker.
But overnight, something changed.
“They call it spontaneous recovery. I didn’t walk with any devices, I walked completely independently.”
It was a huge relief for Ashley, but there was one more worry: her pregnancy. Then, on November 9, Brooklyn came into this world and he was perfect.
“We call her our miracle baby.”
Ashley continues to deal with some residual issues.
“I have trouble with memory, word recall, name recall.”
“The strength she’s had, the level of perseverance and strength she’s shown over the last few months, there was never a time she said, ‘I can’t do this.’”
(This story was originally published on Feb. 18, 2020)