AP NEWS

Woman who has spread holiday cheer now needs aid

May 17, 2019

Heatherann Low is known as a giving person in the community. As the chairwoman of Turkey For Tots, a fundraiser used to raise money so that underprivileged area-children can go Christmas shopping, she’s helped raise more than $24,000 and take 341 children shopping for Christmas — in just the past two years.

She’s helped bring smiles to many children’s faces through her efforts. Now, Low is in need of help.

In April, Low, 44, of Kankakee, was diagnosed with a complex hemiplegic migraine. This rare migraine mimics the symptoms similar to a stroke, and can temporarily paralyze one side of your body.

“One minute I was on a conference call, and the next I was at Riverside [Medical Center] for a month,” Low said. “Life changes quick.”

Just the day before Low started experiencing a headache at work, she was in New Orleans, La.

“On my way back home, I thought I was coming down with strep throat, and my doctor thinks that’s what kicked it all off,” Low said.

By the end of her first day back at work, she had lost her ability to read, write and speak, and the left side of her body was paralyzed.

Low went through a complete paralysis of her left side and experienced minimal speech ability.

“It was one of the most frustrating times of my life,” Low said. “My speech was the first thing to go, and it was the first thing that came back.”

Low compared her altered speech to that of a drunken sailor.

“There was a complete disassociation,” she said. “In my head, I knew what I wanted to say, but I was saying everything wrong.”

When a phone was held in front of her, she adamantly thought that she was saying “phone” when it was really coming out as “tree.” When she regained her ability to read and write again, she would try to write “I love you,” but instead it read “you love I.”

One month later, Low doesn’t have any permanent brain damage. She’s regained almost all mobility of her left side, her speech is clear, and she sounds upbeat and in good spirits. But the struggle isn’t over.

“I still have some trouble with my memory and sometimes with my speech association,” Low said.

Currently, she is undergoing physical and occupational therapy.

After being diagnosed, Low hadn’t been able to return to work as compliance officer for Renville Gaming in Kankakee until recently, Since returning, she has found that things aren’t what they used to be.

“I can usually multitask, and lately, I can’t,” Low said. “I get overwhelmed now, and I never used to get like that. So I’m trying not to take on too much work right now.”

Low returned to work in a part-time capacity.

A current goal is to raise $10,000 through a benefit event in order to pay for all medical costs and to also do research on the complex hemiplegic migraine. When she was diagnosed, her doctor had only seen the diagnosis four times in his career, making Low a rare case.

The benefit for Low will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, 851 N. Main St. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20.

You also can purchase a $25 T-shirt to wear in support of Low at https://bit.ly/2E7dp4o.

The benefit will be a family-friendly event, with food, raffles, door prizes (such as Cubs and White Sox tickets) and a DJ.

“It’s gonna be fun,” Low said.