Graduating from Stone Bridge High School is a family affair for the Bowens. In June, Alaina Bowen will be the fourth member of her family to don a blue cap and gown at the Ashburn school, after three older brothers preceded her.
But her path to finishing was far more complicated.
On the first day of her senior year last August, Alaina felt nauseous, a piercingly painful migraine, and later, numbness. She was rushed to a hospital where doctors found she’d had a stroke caused by a blood clot on the brain.
“It’s a miracle I’m alive,” she said.
She had to have an immediate implant of a cardiac catheter and, she later learned, she’d have to be on blood thinners the rest of her life. She was told she’d have to quit cheerleading—her passion.
She ended up missing the entire first semester of school. Her doctors encouraged her to take a year off to heal and adjust. She declined. “I wanted to graduate with my friends and prepare for college,” she said. “Nothing was going to stop me.”
“She’s a remarkable young lady,” said Tim Lucas, Alaina’s guidance counselor at Stone Bridge.
Her mother, Shannon, said, “Every day I tell her she’s my inspiration. She never complained, never gave up. She just worked through it, focused and stayed positive.”
While tackling a semester’s load of missed classes, Alaina also raised $10,000 for the Children’s National Hospital this year. And since she couldn’t exert the level of physical energy cheerleading required, she instead took on the role of school mascot, donning a Bulldog costume for games and rallies.
Alaina now heads to North Carolina State University, where she’ll study forensic accounting. “I’m grateful for every day I have,” she said. “It’s a perspective I’ll never lose.”