It’s been nearly a year since Shirley Hoch had a stroke in the car as she was driving away from her house on Camaritas Avenue on a May day.
Another one hit her in the ambulance, and yet a third in the hospital, leaving her unable to speak or walk. She had suffered a previous stroke four months earlier, but these three strokes were devastating in a way the previous one had not been.
Her long recovery has kept her away from the school board ever since, where she’s held a seat for 22 years.
“The two of us sit here and do nothing all day except play on our iPad,” Hoch, 62, joked about herself and her husband, Romolo Braschi.
But that’s not true. While she does spend a lot of time on her iPad (more on that wondrous device later), Hoch been doing one thing since last May: working hard.
She had brain surgery to regain her speech, and she spends three days a week in speech, occupational and physical therapy with the hope of being able to walk again. Hoch even had to relearn how to read, a process that took two months.
“I spent eight years helping kindergarten, so it helped me because I remembered the phonetics,” Hoch said. “So when they started teaching me the sounds, I learned them real quick. I play on the iPad all day, Words with Friends, and that helps me too. They gave me some brain games, and so I do those all the time.”
Her illness has meant a necessary break from her public life on the school board, but Hoch still talks to parents, reads the school board packets and scours the budget. She also hopes to return to the school board “as soon as possible.”
The other board members have excused Hoch from meetings through June 30, and in the time she has been gone, there haven’t been any split votes that would require a tie break.
“The time of the year that’s important is June, when we pass the budget,” Hoch said. “Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but that makes some good decision-making when you can get all different opinions out on the table. We can’t discuss business [outside of meetings], but they’ve all been in touch with me. They’re very kind people.”
Recently, Hoch has been stepping out more; she attended the at Westborough Middle School two weeks ago.
And tonight, she plans to attend the fundraiser for the South San Francisco Foundation for Youth, an organization she and her husband started, where she’ll receive the Pamela Selli Community Kindness Award.
“I’m thrilled,” Hoch said of the award, named after her late friend, who was a PTA leader. “I miss her so much.”
A committee determined all four of this year’s award winners, and two of Hoch’s children have stepped forward to help run some of the foundation’s fundraising activities, particularly regular bingo games at and in Redwood City.
“I think our kids are our future, and we better take care of that more than anything,” Hoch said. The Foundation for Youth raises $350,000 a year for local schools and gives funds to programs such as Sojourn to the Past, Every 15 Minutes and scholarships, according to Hoch.
“We worry about the price of gas and everything, but we should worry more about the kids and making sure their futures are certain,” Hoch said.
For now, Hoch keeps herself informed from home and works hard on getting better. (Her opinion about the 2012 presidential race: “The Republicans won the election for Obama.”) And she is grateful for the help of friends and family in helping her during her recovery.
South San Francisco firefighters volunteered their time to build a ramp outside of her home, and her youngest son, Zachary Hoch, helps care for her at home. Hoch says all of her six children have jumped in to help.
“When you get sick like this, your family is everything to you; they take such care of me,” Hoch said. “I got lucky. God gave me good kids.”