Dina Pestonji

When avid runner Dina Pestonji, aged 29, was confronted with the possibility of not being able to talk, or walk – let alone run – after suffering a stroke, she became more determined than ever to recover and get back to her passion. Toronto Rehab helped her achieve her goal of running a marathon.

After returning to Toronto in December 2012 after years of living abroad, Dina began to experience unusual headaches and shooting pain from her head to her legs. Then her speech became slurred. She was immediately taken to UHN’s Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), where she was a patient for one week.

The morning after she returned home, she woke up paralyzed on the right side of her body. Her family rushed her back to the hospital. Dina had suffered a stroke and she required emergency brain surgery.

When she awoke, Dina could not walk or talk. As a healthy and active young woman, this was unimaginable. When she eventually began to regain slight movement in her leg, however, this reignited her goal of running in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, 2013.

Dina was transferred to Toronto Rehab where she underwent extensive speech and physical rehabilitation therapy. “When I first started to vocalize again, I sounded like a robot. I felt like I had lost my personality,” says Dina. “With the help of my amazing therapists, Toronto Rehab gave me my personality back.”

Thanks to the extraordinary care she received, Dina got back on her feet and ran her seventh half marathon, only ten months later. She victoriously crossed the finish line on October 19, 2013. “I was initially concerned my mind and body could not handle running for long distances,” she explains. “But if you are faced with losing the ability to do what you love, it makes you that much more focused on overcoming the fear and the pain. That run was the final step in getting back to my life.”

She is grateful for the care she received at Toronto Rehab. “I am so thankful to Toronto Rehab for helping me get there,” she says. “They encouraged me every step of the way.”

Since that milestone year, Dina has taken the time to enjoy herself. She took a trip to Italy this summer and she continues to relish all that life has to offer. “I never expected to get sick at such a young age,” she says. “Now I treasure every moment of my second chance at life.” 

Watch Dina and her remarkable comback on thestar.com
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