Life Coach Survived 2 Strokes and a TBI

Julie Kuch had her first stroke in 2009 when she was 30. No one believed her at the time, and she had to convince a neurologist to order an MRI before the medical system began to take her seriously.

And once they did take her seriously, the system still didn't offer Julie rehab or even education about how to live life as a stroke survivor.

Several years later, Julie had a do-over -- her second stroke. Oh, and she through in a TBI in between.

Between her strokes, Julie created the services she wished she had for her own stroke. She became a life coach for brain injury survivors.

To learn just what a life coach does, how their services help, and how Julie built this life, listen to this episode.

If you don't see the audio player below, visit http://Strokecast.com/Julie to listen to the conversation.


Who is Julie Kuch?

Julie Kuch headshot where she looks at the camera wearing a denim jacket in the kitchen

Julie is a concussion and stroke survivor. She is a Life Coach for people who have had a brain injury. She has helped 100’s of people find joy and purpose in life again.

Julie has survived to strokes and a TBI. Her second stroke was in January 2022. She is currently recovering (very well) from this, her third brain injury. The experience has Julie feeling more passionate than ever that part of her mission in this life is to help as many people as possible recover and feel better than before their brain injury.

Julie is grateful for her brain injuries and the valuable lessons they have given her.

Julie wants everyone that has experienced a TBI to feel the same, and she know they can. Julie says, "So much of the suffering we go through recovering from brain injuries is not necessary. I teach my clients how to transform from feeling resentful, frustrated, angry, shameful and depressed about the state of their life to feeling accepting, loving, and at peace about themselves and their capacity after a brain injury."

Julie certified as a Life Coach through The Life Coach School.

A Go Getter Gets Depression

Depression is a topic we don't talk about often enough. It's a common stroke deficit, like hemiparesis and aphasia. It interferes with recovery and exercise routines.

And it’s not just feeling sad or mourning the end of your previous life. It's a genuine problem that burns energy and can make it even harder to get out of bed and do PT. Or do the basics of taking care of ourselves.

Last year, I talked with Dr. Laura Stein from Mount Sanai in New York. She talked about new research showing that stroke itself causes major depression, and not just the impacts of stroke.

In 2009, no one told Julie she might encounter depression. We also had less overall public awareness about depression. And when it did hit Julie, she was not prepared to deal with it. She had to deal with her own limiting beliefs about antidepressant medication and about people with depression.

Julie talks about the shame and embarrassment she had around her treatment. By 2022, she was better prepared to deal with it.

Depression, like stroke, can happen to anyone. It can be a deadly condition. And like any other stroke deficit, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

We can know that, but that doesn't guarantee we'll believe that.

Why drive during a stroke?

Julie had her stroke while she was driving to the doctor's office. But she didn't pull over and call an ambulance.

Jo Ann Glim had her stroke in a deli while trying to fix an office sandwich crisis.

Misha Montana drove back to Reno while having a stroke.

James Horton drove home while having a stroke,

Driving while experiencing a stroke is a terrible idea. It's dangerous. It's difficult.

The problem is that we rely on our brains to evaluate every situation of every minute of every day. In a stroke, though, the brain is under attack. Millions of brain cells are dying every minute. Various parts are scrambling in panic mode to figure out what is happening, what no longer works, and what to do next.

The part that should tell us what common sense is has become the part that is broken.

So, what can we do?

We talk about neuroplasticity as how we recover after stroke. The core principle is, "Cells that fire together, wire together." 

It's not just recovery, though. Neuroplasticity governs how we learn. We say things like "Practice makes perfect" because doing something repeatedly is often how we learn it. Practice IS the firing together of neuroplasticity. The more we repeat a thing, the more resilient the connections in our brains become. The bigger they become. The more permanent they become.

If you grew up in the US and I say, "I pledge allegiance…" you probably immediately want to say, "to the flag."

If you grew up Catholic and I say, "In the name of the father," you probably felt the urge to touch your forehead.

These are patterns we developed over years of repetition.

Here's how this impacts driving. By repeating BE FAST early and often, we internalize not only the most common symptoms of stroke, but also the action. T = Time to call an ambulance.

B – a sudden loss of or change in balance

E – a sudden change in or loss of eyesight or vision

F – single side face droop

A – in ability to hold both arms up

S – loss of or change in speech, vocabulary, or ability to process language

T – Any of this means it is time to call an ambulance

BE FAST = Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call an ambulance.

Repeat it until "Time to call an ambulance" is as ingrained as the sign of the cross or the pledge of allegiance. In a crisis, that may then be the course of action the dying brain grabs on to.

Stroke symptom graphic highlighting BE FAST (Sudden change in Balance, Eyesight, Facial symmetry, Arm control or speech/language means it is time to call and ambulance),

Helmets Save Lives

Julie told the story of her concussion during the conversation. This is a picture of the helmet she was wearing at the time.

Yes, she still suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, but the helmet took the brunt of it. When you look at the dent in that image, it might not look too dramatic, but if you take another look and then imagine what that would look like on someone's head.

A picture of Julie Kuch's snowboard hellmet with a significant dent and major scratch from a collision with another snowboarder. The crash gave Julie a significant concussion, but the helmet saved her life.

Now that's terrifying.

What is a Life coach?

Julie is a Life Coach for brain injury survivors. But what does that mean?

As Julie describes it, she helps live their best life. In some respects, it's similar to what a mental health professional does, but to a lesser degree.

A life coach helps a client develop practical skills for life within the context of the coach's expertise.

A big part of Julies work is helping folks understand the difference between facts and thoughts. Often, we assume that our thoughts are facts, and that causes problems. Saying it's 73 degrees is a fact. Saying it's too warm to do PT is an opinion or a thought. When we act on thoughts like that, we can limit our recovery.

Many of us have limiting beliefs about our abilities, relationships, money, and more. Those limiting beliefs are things that we have convinced ourselves are facts when in reality they are not. And yet they have become part of the way our brain interprets the world due to neuro plasticity.

A life coach like Julie helps clients unpack those limiting beliefs and jettison the ones that don't work. Freeing yourself from your limiting beliefs allows you to achieve more.

While a life coach is not a replacement for a psychologist, they can still help people live better lives.

Hack of the Week

There are three tools that helped Julie with the mindset of recovery that she uses with her clients,

First, mourn the life that could have been.

After a brain injury, life will be different. We are different. Some disabilities may be short term while others are long term. It's okay to be sad and disappointed. Getting stuck in sadness and disappointment won't undo the injury, though. It will only delay your entry in a new and possibly amazing life.

Taking time to mourn the life that could have been can help you move on to the life yet to be.

Second, receive the gift of rest.

Rest and sleep are important, yet many of us flee from them (myself included too many times). That's where much of the work of healing happens though. A brain focused on just getting to the next big thing isn't taking the time it needs to prepare for the next big thing. Take the time to rest and recover.

Third, manage your thoughts.

The key principle behind Julie's coaching is that thoughts and opinions direct our actions and beliefs. We think they are immutable, but they are not. We can change them. We can decide which ones to dwell on.

The core idea of neuroplasticity is that "nerves that fire together, wire together." PT, OT, and Speech Therapy are governed by this theory. It's why we have to do thousands of repetitions to rediscover our limbs and build new pathways in our brains.

And it's why dwelling and revisiting unhelpful thoughts is not helpful. The more often we think something or repeat a belief, the more the nerves will wire that thought or belief, giving the brain a shortcut to that thought or belief.

Make sure you leverage the power of neuroplasticity to bring good things into your life.

Better year for Geek Movies: 1982 or 1989?

I was just on the Caffeinated Comics Podcast where we discussed this question along with the trends that transformed movies through the 80s. From Bladerunner to Batman, and Tron to the Little Mermaid, a lot of amazing movies came out in those years.

You can hear us discuss it on the podcast here: https://radiomisfits.com/cc286/

Or you can listen and watch on YouTube right here:



Where do we go from here?

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

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