By Josh Stipanovich
The past 18 years have been rough for Rosie Bulmer, but that doesn’t stop her life mission — inspiring everyone around her.
“Family is [Rosie’s] whole concept. It’s everything. It’s absolutely everything,” Rosie’s sister-in-law Illona Bulmer said.
A survivor of two strokes and two open-heart surgeries, Rosie now battles multiple sclerosis.
“I’ve not known it [the MS] to slow her down,” Illona said.
And it hasn’t. On this Mother’s Day, Rosie credits her parents for inspiring her to give and not expect anything in return.
“Do whatever you can for others, and it will pay off in the end,” is Rosie’s motto.
That’s also what she teaches others.
Before Nov. 14, 1994, Rosie was the primary caregiver to her daughters and husband. She paid the bills. She prepared dinner. She worked full time at Northside Medical Center.
She always was on the go.
That all came to a halt early on a day her husband, Rich Bulmer, said he will never forget. Rosie awoke and told him she couldn’t move.
Rosie would later learn she had suffered her first stroke.
“That just changes everything,” Rich said.
Rich was by his wife’s side through the journey. He took her to every appointment and supported her every decision.
Rosie was 39 when she suffered that stroke. The right side of her body lost all motor ability, and independent Rosie was forced to rely on others.
“I couldn’t stand the dragging of the leg behind you,” Rosie said, describing daily torments that included everything from eating to putting on clothes.
“That was very hard,” she said. “And that wasn’t me, because I’m a very active person. So I was determined then that that wasn’t going to stop me.”
Rosie’s youngest daughter, Stacie, now 25, was just 8 years old when her mother began her series of health-related issues. After the stroke, Stacie helped teach Rosie how to write again – even while she was a student in elementary school, Rosie said.
“She stayed with me every single night to [teach me] my letters again. How to make an ‘A’, a ‘B’, a ‘C’, and she slept on the floor every single night with me so that I would be OK,” Rosie said in tears.
“In my head, if I slept on the floor, nothing was going to happen because I would fix it,” Stacie said.
After several occupational-therapy sessions, she regained movement. She soon returned to work full time as a mother, wife and nurse.
Doctors determined the stroke was caused from two holes in Rosie’s heart. After they discovered the holes, they diagnosed her with MS.
“I was going to show everybody that the MS wasn’t going to get me. I was going to get it,” Rosie said.
Rosie decided to take a blood thinner to avoid open heart surgery. But that didn’t work.
One year later, she suffered a second stroke. She was left without depth perception, peripheral vision, and she couldn’t drive.
“My left eye now feels like wax paper is over it so I don’t see colors . . . like I do in my right eye,” Rosie said.
For nearly two months, she was hooked to IVs and was on steroids in hopes she would regain vision.
She eventually did and was able to get back to a somewhat normal life.
The second stroke led to her first heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic when she was 41 years old.
That’s when Rosie reached her breaking point. And she began to prepare her family for life without her.
“I left them each a letter ... just in case I didn’t make it,” Rosie said in tears.
She created charts for Rich so he knew when to pay the bills. She left notes explaining what bills needed to be paid by check or by card.
Those notes went unused.
“I survived, and I did good, and I ripped [the letters] all up and threw them away,” Rosie said, laughing.
After eight weeks of rehab, Rosie returned home and was working full-time shortly after.
But the battle wasn’t quite over. It never is, Rosie said.
Doctors told her she had to fully recover from the strokes before they could attack the MS. Every Saturday night, since her full-recovery from the strokes, she goes on what she calls her “date night.”
Her date is the Avonex shot she takes for the MS. The weekly injection is used to keep patients in remission.
“And boy he’s [the shot] been pretty loyal to me,” Rosie said.
Rosie has been promoted to assistant clinical nurse manager at Northside Medical Center since the last stroke and the MS diagnosis.
She was awarded employee of the month in September and employee of the year in December. She then found out she was nominated for an Athena Award, sponsored by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber. She’ll find out May 23 if she won.
“I could not have done it without my friends, [and] my family. They were fighting for me too,” Rosie said. “There’s [a lot] of positive out there. You just have to go for the positive.”
Stacie said she’s learned so much from her mother.
“You don’t take things for granted,” Stacie said. “You can’t go to bed mad because you don’t know if that person’s going to wake up in the morning.
“I couldn’t go a day without her.”