Kenya Robinson had experienced high levels of stress in the months leading up to the stroke

By Benjamin VanHoose
July 30, 2020 11:37 AM
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Kenya Robinson
Kenya Robinson/Jazzercise Inc.

Not aware she was in the middle of suffering a stroke, Kenya Robinson continued to lead her Jazzercise class.

A barbell fell from the fitness instructor's right hand as her students pressed on. Robinson assured them they'd finish the song, even though she was unable to clutch the free weight. She continued calling out counts and directions as she propped herself against a nearby wall, confused. Her students began to express concern.

"I’m watching paranoia on everyone’s faces, but the execution of their movements is flawless," Robinson, 45, recalls of the Oct. 1 incident at her Corona, California, studio.

When she managed to announce to her class that she needed to end the session early, the worried women "rushed the stage."

"I could hear the prayers before they climbed on stage — they are touching me, I’m braced in the seated position and I feel like I can relax," says Robinson, remembering how, in the moment, she didn't "want there to be anything wrong."

In the following moments, speaking became difficult for Robinson; she was also unable to smile, she remembers. The next six days of hospitalization are hazy for her, but she recalls the moment she was given an explanation for her health scare: a hemorrhagic stroke that burst a 3½-centimeter brain bleed and caused paralysis on her right side.

The mom of three, to children aged 18, 16, and 13, had experienced high levels of stress in the months leading up to the stroke. She was "feeling overwhelmed. I’m running [the Jazzercise] business, managing kid after-school activities with travel and club sports, and the household responsibilities," she says. "Growing up, I’d see covers of magazines emphasizing the millions of ways 'women could have it all.' "

But now, Robinson is putting her health first.

"I’m blessed to be alive," says Robinson. "Although it’s unfortunate it took a stroke for me to learn how to reset, I now have a second chance at life."

"I have no regrets or shame and have taken this second chance at life to really understand what it means to 'have it all,'" she shares. "For me, that is my health and my family. Everything else? Just taking it one day at a time."

Kenya Robinson (left) in the hospital after stroke.
Kenya Robinson/Jazzercise Inc.

Despite doctors telling her she would return to 70 percent functionality in 12 months, in month nine, Robinson is already back to instructing workout classes. Held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, Robinson again teaches two to three strength classes a week, though she still experiences neuropathy in her right foot.

She's also continually working to improve her balance, stability, running and jumping.

Left: Kenya Robinson returning to gym after stroke Kenya Robinson/Jazzercise Inc.
Right: Kenya Robinson/Jazzercise Inc.

"Rehab teaches you how to function with alternative methods for everyday tasks," she explains. "The more you practice and do the exercises they prescribe, the better the outcome and a sense of normalcy begins. With each tiny success comes the willingness to keep at it."

"It was frustrating not being able to move like before," adds Robinson. "... Returning to the stage was somewhat daunting. My instructors all came to class to support me for my first solo class. The support really helped with the nerves of being on stage again. Now, it’s feeling quite normal and right at home."

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In an emotional Facebook post earlier this month, Robinson wrote that she feels she will "never be able to repay my gratitude to the women in class that night who not only got me the medical help I needed but doused me in prayer."

"For this, I have a lifetime of paying forward to do," she wrote. "I’m blessed to be alive. I’m blessed that I can walk again. I’m blessed that I can speak clearly again. I’m blessed that I can use my hand again. I’m blessed that my brain is healing. God is so good."