For nearly a decade, Heather Rendulic hasn’t been able to use her left hand to feed herself or pick up something as light as a soup can – but that changed when she became part of a clinical trial that could radically improve the lives of people who’ve been paralyzed after a stroke.

The results of that trial were published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.

Rendulic has a rare brain disease called cavernous angioma, a blood vessel abnormality that can cause stroke. She had series of them – five total – over a period of 11 months when she was just 22 years old that left her paralyzed on her left side.

“The most challenging part of my condition is living one-handed in a two-handed world,” the Pittsburgh resident said.

A stroke cuts off the blood supply to the brain, and cells start to die within