Douceur first received treatment in New Zealand, where she underwent an MRI. She arrived at Hopkins this week for further evaluation.

Nyquist said she suffered a small stroke, known as a lacunar stroke, that affected the temporal lobe in the brain, which plays an important role in speech and vision.

"It was interfering with her ability to communicate," he said.

Nyquist said they'll never know whether the length of time before she was treated impeded her recovery. He also said Douceur didn't have many risk factors for a stroke — she had normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and didn't have diabetes.

Nyquist said the station's altitude — which is high because of the thickness of the ice upon which it is built — might have contributed to the stroke. The low oxygen level triggers an increase in the number of red blood cells, raising the likelihood of a stroke, he said.

Douceur still has a hard time focusing and can't remember some things.

But she said she is grateful that the damage wasn't worse.

Douceur said she would like to go back to the South Pole but doesn't know whether her health will allow it. Patients who have had a stroke are at risk for another one, Nyquist said.

She hopes to sky-dive again — although the doctors in New Zealand told her to wait six months. She also can't wait to get home and start traveling the country in her RV.

"I am a very lucky person," she said.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ankwalker

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