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Susan M.



My first hero, my father, died after a massive stroke in 2005.  But it taught me about stroke and its effects and my husband, also my hero, has triumphed after his stroke.  He has made me a better person for it.

My husband and I finally found each other. My service dog chose him - he was the only man ever allowed to receive a toy from him. He looked at me, wagged his tail, as if to say "this is the guy!"

A cancer survivor for just over 10 years, my very quiet husband has the heart of a lion, is Einstein-smart, and can do anything he wants - and does it perfectly. From cars to plumbing to computers...I could go on.

We bought a house and planned to marry in December 2008 (My family being completely against it, but in our state you have to or your assets are tied up forever!) We "pinky-swore" that no matter what, we'd stay together - love or hate.

He rescued me from an awful situation and gave me the space to regain my life back. Then on November 28, 2008 at the age of 46, he had a stroke. My service dog had retired by then, and was losing his sight and hearing. He escalated his alerts until he woke up my husband, just like he would for me. Then he helped get his phone, get to the front door, and opened the screen door barking his head off. Although new to the neighborhood, everyone knew he didn't bark. My husband speed-dialed me, and couldn't speak - but I heard the barking, called 911 and rushed home.

The EMTs wouldn't allow me in either of the 2 ambulances unless I left my working service dog at home - which is ridiculous - how would I be able to walk? - and against the law. Regardless, I was a crumpled heap on my front lawn. I asked if there was a god - I needed an angel NOW! Within a second, out stepped someone who was visiting my neighbor and said "get in my car." There has to be a God.

I didn't get the whole story right away...but as it came out in bits, I realized why when I got home that cold night, there was Buddy Bear, sitting on the cold tile in the foyer wagging his tail and smiling his proud doggy smile. What a hero!

Through all that has followed, I knew that they would take care of each other. Last July, we lost Buddy Bear, but I know we will see him again. He is still in our hearts and I could swear he tells my service dog, my pet Sheltie, and my cat to do absolutely silly and impish things to make us laugh.

I am blessed to have two heroes. My husband, although still recovering 3 years later, refuses to give up. While he still cannot use most of his right arm and his right hand, he has continued fixing cars in our garage, all sorts of home repairs, and ran a new water system through the attic - by himself. He is a proud man and will not give up.
In January, I told him he had to take care of himself - I needed to take care of me for a while - I was so exhausted. He had characteristic outbursts that he forgot 10 minutes later as many stroke survivors do. You forgive and try to forget, but they forget right away. And then, they became less frequent - and he has taken control of his life except for a few small areas we mutually agreed on.

He hardly ever stutters, only occasionally searches for a word, and is working with vocational rehab to overcome short term memory issues and train for employment.
It's been a hard 3 years, but now that I some perspective, and some sleep, it's been worth it. We are both different, better people because of all we've been through together.

After his stroke, my husband could not say my name and just called me "gorgeous" as usual. I'll settle for that any day!

More people need to be advocates, find new ways to rehabilitate, and treat each stroke survivor, NOT victim, individually, not on some prescribed therapy path that applies to everyone. And really involve the health advocates, family, caregivers...

Thank you for letting me share my story - the bravery of these two important "guys" in my life is amazing. And my current service dog has held me up through all of it - he will be the next to get a medal of honor!


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Display of the Faces of Stroke stories does not imply National Stroke Association's endorsement of any product, treatment, service or entity. National Stroke Association strongly recommends that people ask a healthcare professional about diagnosis and treatment questions before using any product, treatment or service. The views expressed through the stories reflect those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of National Stroke Association.

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