Rita Ecdao-Lubey exudes confidence. She’s the person who controls her situation, focusing on possibilities rather than limitations. That’s why it comes as such a surprise when Rita explains that her life was once restricted by fear. Stroke changed that. “I didn’t feel afraid anymore,” says Rita, who suffered two strokes in 2012 at age 50.

Rita was grocery shopping when her life took an unexpected turn. She recalls getting out of the car feeling as if she was going to pass out. She continued into the store, checking items off her list, her head feeling increasingly heavy. Rita made it through the check-out line and back to her car knowing that something was not right. She asked a bystander to call 911. Though her symptoms revealed no numbness, muscle weakness or difficulties speaking, Rita was transported by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital where she immediately underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized for three weeks.

Within two weeks of being released, Rita was back at Good Samaritan where she underwent surgery for a second brain aneurysm. She says she remembers very little of her three-month hospital stay and rehabilitation at Mission Oaks. She does recall moments of clarity when she could hear doctors and nurses telling her family what she would and would not be able to do on her own as a stroke survivor. “I was mad,” says Rita.

Once home in the care of her mother and surrounded by extended family and friends, Rita channeled her anger into positive energy. Physical and cognitive therapies, journaling, and prayer helped Rita’s healing process. She also made a life plan. Inspired by the patient care she received at Good Samaritan, Rita became a volunteer at the hospital. “I wanted to give back,” she says. Her enthusiasm for the medical field grew and Rita enrolled in a vocational program to become a certified medical assistant (CMA). Today, the woman who once got queasy at the sight of needles holds title as Patient Care Liaison/CMA at the medical offices of one of her own stroke care doctors. Of the calling to medical work, Rita says she’s glad she heard it. “I can share my story and comfort patients and their caregivers and family members,” she says. “Everything happens for a reason.”