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Stroke of faith
Wildflower women: Melissa White
Melissa White

Melissa White has seen perhaps more than her share of hard times, but her faith in God remains stronger than ever and helps her to maintain a positive outlook on life, even in times of struggle.

Though a native of Screven County, where she still resides, White is well known throughout Bulloch County, whether for her bubbly personality, her various community engagements, her long career in banking or her more recent work in real estate.

“Making the industry change after many years in banking was a huge leap of faith,” she said. “Having embraced my love for houses, my husband encouraged me to pursue real estate so that I would be able to do what I love.”

White, 52, has been married to husband Neville for 24 years. They have three adult children, two bonus “in-loves” and seven “glambabies,” as she calls them, and her decision to change professions ultimately was rooted in a desire to be more present in each of their lives.

Her knack for forging connections and building relationships has contributed to her success as a Realtor, and she considers it a privilege to witness local families become homeowners.

“I am super excited about this new chapter and the opportunity to create even more relationships within the community,” she said. “I utilize my diverse background and expertise to deliver results and exceed expectations of each family that I assist with buying (or) selling their home.”

In fact, she says she has always been a people person, and it’s no wonder — she grew up in a very blended family with numerous siblings and diverse life experiences.

“I’ve navigated through various challenges, including the complexities of teenage pregnancy and the sting of rejection,” she said. “These experiences not only shaped my resilience but have also sharpened my ability to tackle adversity with grace and determination.”

Still, she recognizes, nothing could have prepared her for the events of August 2023.

Melissa White

It started on Aug. 28, when White collapsed at home. Her husband called 911, and an ambulance arrived and transported her to the hospital.

“I felt fine overall, but not my best,” she said. “The ER doctors checked me out and concluded that I was dehydrated and advised me to hydrate and rest.”

Unfortunately, what had been diagnosed as dehydration was actually a “ministroke,” which became clear in the days that followed. According the Mayo Clinic, a ministroke, or transient ischemic attack, is caused by a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain. Its symptoms are similar to those of a major stroke, though while they usually subside within minutes and don’t cause long-term damage, a ministroke is very often predicative of a subsequent disabling stroke within a matter of hours or days.

On Aug. 30, that’s exactly what happened.

“I lost all control of my body,” White said. “I could not walk, speak or anything.”

At the hospital, doctors determined she had suffered a major stroke, a reality that took a heavy toll, both physically and mentally. In an instant, her entire world had changed.

“I was torn apart and could not understand how and why this happened to me,” she said, adding that she had always taken her health seriously, exercising regularly and even following a vegan diet. “I was in utter disbelief.”

The stroke left White paralyzed on her left side and caused complications with functions including speech and movement, resulting in a two-month stay at a rehabilitation facility for intensive daily physical, occupational and speech therapy in an effort to restore what she had lost.

“Not being able to do things that were so easy to do was very hard to overcome in the beginning. I was like a newborn baby,” she said.

Though she says it was an extremely difficult time to be away from her family, she drew strength and encouragement from an extensive support system, both at the facility and at home.  

“I had to remain hopeful for the future because I knew God had a plan for my life,” she said. “I met some amazing people along the way that I was able to encourage, and even others that encouraged me and were always so willing to assist with anything that I needed.”

Though many may find themselves questioning God amid such trials of pain and struggle, White says they only served to deepen her faith, and she leaned into her heavenly Father, trusting that she would be healed.

“Daily, I had to remind myself of the Word of the Lord that I have hidden in my heart,” she said. “I had to truly cling onto the Word. It was hard to give thanks and praise during such a difficult time in my life, but I reminded myself of the promises of Jesus. I knew that I had to believe.”

Melissa White

Today, White gives all the glory to God for the restoration of her health and the renewed ability to walk, drive and return to her daily routine. She continues to strive to live a healthy lifestyle and is working to educate herself and others about the warning signs of a stroke and precautions that can be taken to help prevent one from happening or recurring.

“Stay in tune with your body,” she urges others. “If anything seems off or not right, go see a doctor, because you never know what it could lead to.”

Along this journey to recovery, she’s come to accept the reality that “this could — and did — happen to me,” and though it hasn’t always been easy to embrace the changes that have followed, White is thankful for the encouragement she’s received from so many of those relationships she’s built across the years.

“I am forever grateful for the love that was shown from my family and friends in Bulloch County and all over,” she said.