Ieda Jonasdottir Herman, 91, suffered a stroke about two months ago.
Soon — and largely, she’s convinced, because she thought and acted quickly after her stroke’s first signs — she’ll zip-line above the streets of Las Vegas.
Ieda is not normal. Most people her age don’t write prolifically, juggle, paraglide, skip rope or go rock climbing.
A petite woman with a firm handshake, she took to the latter “like she was a little monkey,” said Heidi, Ieda’s youngest of 10 children, when family and friends celebrated her 90th birthday at the Upper Limits rock climbing health club in Bloomington. “She climbed 60 feet.”
“I’m not old,” said Ieda, proud of her Scandinavian heritage as a native of Iceland. “I’m chronologically gifted.”
Her gifts also include the presence of mind to quickly conclude she was suffering a stroke Nov. 1 in the farm house where she lives with Heidi on Queenwood Road, just south of Morton.
“I knew minutes count,” Ieda said.
The minutes were critical after a sudden onslaught of swirling vision prompted her to tell Heidi, who works at home, to call for a Morton Fire Department ambulance.
Ieda didn’t go to her bed and wait passively for her first symptom to subside. That’s a mistake many stoke victims realize they’ve made only after more symptoms — including slowed or slurred speech, drooping face, confusion and numbed limbs — show themselves, she and Heidi said as they recalled the event in their home this week.
More symptoms did come, but not until after Ieda was on her way and had arrived at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center’s emergency room in Peoria.
Ieda, whose sister is also a stroke victim, said she began the day of her attack in normal fashion, with 10 sit-ups before she rose from bed and a series of stretching exercises. She got dressed and went to the kitchen for her morning coffee.
“All of a sudden, the kitchen just spun like crazy,” she said. “I went (back) to the bedroom, took an aspirin, then the bedroom started spinning.”
She called to Heidi upstairs, “I’m having a stroke! Call 911,” then sat down on the living room couch. When Heidi asked if she wanted to drive to the hospital, Ieda ordered the faster response of an ambulance.
At the hospital, “They told me it was a very small blood clot,” Idea said as she pointed to her temple. “They gave me a clot buster,” a shot of powerful blood thinner.
Within a few hours, the “throat paralysis” and numbness in her left leg had subsided. After three days of care and observation, she was back home.
Two days later, she was back jumping rope across her long backyard deck, to show her hundreds of Facebook friends by video that she was her old self again.
That persona is woven through her unique life. Ieda was 19 when she met Delbert Herman, stationed with the Navy in Iceland during World War II, at a USO dance. Despite their differences in language, they fell in love and married in 1945. Ieda traveled by ship, alone and frightened, to the United States to stay with Delbert’s family in Bloomington until he returned home.
They began a life that produced their children and Delbert’s work as a pastor of Assembly of God churches, particularly the Foursquare Church in Chillicothe. Delbert passed away in February 2015, after the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.
In the years shortly before and after his death, Ieda has written and self-published several books and stories.
They include a memoir of her Icelandic childhood, a fiction titled “The Silver Arrow” that weaves a young girl’s adventures with Nordic myths, and “Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens,” which she co-authored with Heidi. Those works can be found on Amazon.com.
And Ieda travels — over the years back to her beloved Iceland, a few years ago to Utah for some paragliding, with a guide’s help, and in coming months.
She and Heidi will start with four days in Nevada and zip-lining down Ferris Street in Las Vegas. Trips to see her children in Florida and Arizona come soon after.
Ieda can still enjoy her old self, she said, because she’s kept fit and wasted no time when she detected her stroke.
“The importance of speed in getting help,” Heidi said, can make the difference of a lifetime.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin