An update on past news

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Stroke survivor Corrie Wong, shown at a church prayer meeting at the University of Hawaii art auditorium in 1999, is now in her third year of earning a master's degree at San Francisco State University.

Woman who had stroke at 18
responding to challenges

By Pat Gee

Question: What ever happened to Corrie Wong, who suffered a stroke at age 18?

Answer: Corrie Wong is in her third year of earning her master's degree in speech pathology at San Francisco State University, according to her father, Art Wong of St. Louis Heights.

In 1993, Corrie Wong had just graduated from Punahou School and was a freshman at the University of Hawaii when a massive stroke almost killed her. The stroke damage was so severe, her therapists set her goal as a "household wheelchair user." The stroke had paralyzed her left side and also affected her speech and her ability to recognize spatial characteristics.

After giving her a magnetic resonance imaging scan, her doctor diagnosed her with a disease called moya-moya, a rare congenital disorder found in people of Japanese ancestry that prevents full development of major blood vessels going to the brain. Instead of the blood flowing through her carotid arteries, it was flowing through capillaries the size of hair strands. Her parents researched moya-moya and sent her to a specialist in San Francisco who performed brain surgery on others with the rare disease.

She later returned to Honolulu, continued physical therapy and returned to UH.

Impressed by a speech therapist at Queen's Medical Center who helped her to regain most of her speech, Wong decided to enter the field.

In 1999, Wong graduated from UH with a bachelor's degree in speech pathology.

Since moving to California, Wong has had surgery to reroute temporal arteries to her damaged left side to prevent the onset of another stroke, and has had a couple of seizures in the past year, according to her father. She has also suffered a few falls because of her "less than normal gait," but overall has risen well to the challenges, he added.

"I was afraid to let her go (to the mainland by herself), and I had a lot of sleepless nights. But it's helped her a lot; she wanted to test her own abilities," Art Wong said.

"We are totally grateful she's come (so far) this way. The doctors were very pessimistic. We installed ramps and rails and safety bars like they told us to because they said she would be in a wheelchair the rest of her life.

"She's pretty amazing -- she doesn't give up; she's a fighter. And she's tried to help patients with the same disease," he said.

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