People & Places

Vermont Conversation: Stroke survivors bike across America to raise awareness and hope

From right: Deb Meyerson, Steve Zuckerman and Whitney Hardy on their cross-country ride for stroke awareness. Photo by Lisa McKinney.

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

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In 2010, Debra Meyerson, 53, was a Stanford professor and avid skier, hiker and biker. But after dropping her oldest son off at college on Labor Day weekend, she had a severe stroke. In an instant, her life and her identity transformed. She could not speak and was partly paralyzed.

Meyerson is one of 790,000 people annually who have a stroke, a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.

Deb Meyerson has regained her ability to communicate and move, both with difficulty. She wrote a book, “Identity Theft,” and together with her husband, Steve Zuckerman, a nonprofit executive, founded Stroke Onward, an organization that raises awareness and resources for stroke survivors and their supporters.

This summer, Meyerson and Zuckerman took on another challenge: bicycling across the U.S. In June, they set off from California on a 4,300-mile journey that will end in Boston on Aug. 27. They were joined by other stroke survivors and people who have had brain injuries and aphasia, a life-altering language disorder that affects about 30% of people who have strokes. The group calls itself Stroke Across America, and they are riding to raise awareness about strokes and aphasia, and to call attention to the importance of emotional recovery after a stroke.

Meyerson, Zuckerman and Whitney Hardy, a survivor of a traumatic brain injury, took time out during their 100-day ride to talk about their journey.

Life after a stroke “requires an emotional journey,” said Zuckerman (his cousin is former Vermont Lt. Gov. and current candidate for Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman). “A big part of that is identity. It's figuring out who are you. And who do you want to be?”

“This metaphor of cycling is an adaptive activity that enables us to continue to live the kind of life we want to live,” Zuckerman concluded.

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

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