Brian


Survivor

After getting hit in the head the day prior to my stroke, I woke up to the most intense headache ever. This headache is a migraine x 1000, anyway I had to go with my mom to get her car fixed. As we were on our way I got sick in the back of the car, of course mom was not happy so she had to pull over and clean it up. While Mom was being the best mom ever I went to throw rocks into the river. On my last toss I fell quickly to the ground and could not get up. My little brother went to get my mom maybe 15 feet away, and they both helped get my back into the back seat. I needed all the help I could get as I could not move anything on my left side. We then heard a car screeching its tires to turn around and they came back to help us. To our luck, it was an off duty police officer, she radioed for help and I was quickly taken to our local hospital.

En route they were not exactly sure what was wrong, my grandparents heard over the scanner at there house that the medical team thought it was a critical seizure or worse. I was rushed into the ER where, after a short time, some amazing doctors and medical folks realized after some tests I had a massive stroke and immediately took care to try and break the clot that had formed in my brain. The clot was deep in my brain and surgery was not an option. I was given medicine to help break up the clot and was rushed to another facility where I underwent more testing. I was ultimately sent to a huge hospital in Danville, PA. I was completely paralyzed on my left side.

I overheard doctors talking with my parents as they were informed that I may never walk again or live a normal life. Needless to say my parents did not stand for that information and did the very best to assure me I would be okay. I don't know if they ever knew I heard this, but I remember the doctors putting the scans of my brain up on the lighted unit in the room and showing them the damage.

My parents decided to send me to a rehab facility in Wilmington, DE. The facility and staff are the best you will find. I worked day and night with multiple therapists, went to school and had group therapy sessions while there. Every day I would go to speech therapy followed by physical therapy, occupational therapy, school, group lunch, group therapy, more occupational therapy, and more physical therapy. I did this for a total of 5 or 6 weeks. My first week there I was taught how to get dressed with one hand, how to get into and out of my wheelchair and many other new skills they thought I would need.

My goal was not to learn how to best manage life from a wheelchair but to learn to walk again, learn to play baseball again; most of all learn to live a new normal life. I had to come to a real understanding personally very quickly life would not be the same as it was just a few short weeks ago but if I wanted it to be it could be the most normal it possibly could be. I understood I would never play sports at a high level again but could play them for the love of them and pure enjoyment of them. I just had to keep telling myself every day that I could use this day to get better than I did yesterday. Never could I let a day get away wasted where I didn't improve some home.

I have to tell you at age 11 and being unable to walk or move a limb is absolutely the worst feeling in the world. You might laugh at me saying this but just imaging telling yourself to move your left big toe. In your mind nothing has changed you can feel your body working to move that toe but it just won't happen. Or trying to grab a glass of water that is on your left side, I can feel my self grabbing in and I feel my brain trying to tell my arm and hand to just reach over there and grab it, but it just won't work. I swear that in the middle of the night I would wake up grab something with my left hand and put it right back or get up to go to the bathroom just one more time. Those things never really happened but try and tell an 11 year old that!

While at the rehab facility, I learned many things, but the biggest thing I learned is the power of positive thought. If you think you can and work hard enough you most certainly can. I never considered the therapy to be painful or tedious but I can remember that every day I would go into that room and think today I'm going to do this or that and by the end of the day it most likely happened. You have to set realistic goals for yourself when you are in a tough situation. Sure, I knew I wanted to walk again, but it wasn't going to happen day one. I had to start out small. I remember the first time I could wiggle my left toes again, I broke down in tears immediately and was so happy. When you reach one of these goals you feel like you can conquer the world.

Every day in PT and OT Bob and Nancy (my therapist) would work on moving my arms and legs the same way day after day. My parents just recently told me that when they would watch me get "worked" on it was the most painful thing they have ever seen and it brought tears to their eyes. As I said earlier it never was painful for me. When I finally built up enough strength in my legs to stand I knew in my heart walking was not very far away, and that made me work even harder. I regained my ability to walk first in short sprints then finally full time with a walker then a cane and finally in early August 1994 on my very own.

 

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