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Alex M.


My New Beginning

Life after a brain stem stroke

My new life started on January 19th, 2004 at 54 years of age. I was extremely physically fit, in fact I had just had a physical and I passed it with flying colors. Because I was so healthy I think the doctors at the hospital never once considered I was having a stroke right in front of them. About 24hrs later is when they determined I had a stroke and then it was too late. I had a rare and normally fatal brain stem stroke and after a few days in ICU they said I had locked-in syndrome. That is where a fully functional brain is locked-in a body that no longer functions. In other words I could fully understand what was going around me, all of my memories were still intact, but I could not move any parts of my body. All I could do was lay in the position I was placed in! All of the medical staff told my wife right in front of me that what she saw is all I would ever be able to do till I died and they recommended putting me in a nursing home and for her to forget about me! The medical staff gave me zero hope. My wife refused to listen to all their negative talk and told everyone they are not to talk negative talk in front of me if they felt they needed to they must take it out to the hall where I could not hear them. One doctor said in front of me, 'I would had been better off if I had died'. At the end of 30 days in ICU the hospital was kicking me out and they found a nursing home that would take me in my current state. When my wife found out about their decision she went to work to get me into a rehab hospital. I will not go into all the details but she got me placed into RIC, Rehab Institute of Chicago after 3 months of intensive therapy I was released to go home and then we found out the real story. RIC normally did not take patients like me and I somehow was accepted by accident in their hospital. They were going to give me two weeks where they would teach my wife how to take care of my special needs. Then they would release me to go home and to her care but the one thing they never considered is my God's healing powers. The two weeks turned into three months and during that time I started to regain some of my mobility back. With plenty of help I was able to walk about 60 feet before I left! What I was able to do simply amassed everyone at RIC! Today I'm home all by myself while my wife works. I go down the steps of our two story house each morning from sleeping in our bed, no hospital bed. I walk using a walker or a 4 legged cane. I babysit my 5 year old granddaughter 8 hours a day 3 days per week along with her dog. I cook for her and myself when she is with me. I talk using a special device called a palatal lift. Since my mouth was frozen shut from my stroke and I could not eat, drink, or talk, I had to relearn all of this. I no longer have a feeding tube. I taught myself how to eat and drink again. I have had 7 years of therapy to get this far and I see the rehab doctor in May of this year for a checkup and will see if he recommends more therapy. One thing this stroke left me with is the need to exercise regularly at home. I found out this is not an option but my new job! Like it or not I have learned to accept this is what I have to do if I want to stay mobile and live with my wife and family. So this year begins my 8th year after my stroke. I look at things as a new adventure and what is in store for me I do not know but I will find out when it happens. Your probably asking right about now what does he do with all his spare time? I'm glad you asked; I fabricate out of metal and wood that require I use my many shop tools. I use my three different welders, my plasma cutter to cut metals, my table saw, my belt sander, my drill press, and my many other tools. I have to be creative to use them but I do and all by myself! I've attached several photos of things I made, and most of them I required no one's help. The airplane is made from a sheet of 4' X 8' foot plywood 3/8' thick. The sides are not mitered but bent to the angle shape. The plane steers by the tail wheel from linkage from the control stick all of which I made myself. The play set I made over 50% in my driveway and my neighbor Woody helped me finish it in our back yard. Since I can't climb he offered his assistance.

First of all you do not ever want to have a stroke! Go to the stroke.org web site and get yourself informed about stroke and how to prevent having one. A stroke is like thief in the night, it steals from you and in most cases you never regain what it has stolen from you! A major untruth is stroke is an old person's disease or problem. Wrong, it affects anyone at any age. That includes newborns still in their mother's womb! It has no preference of who it chooses to have a stroke. All hospitals are the same so if you think you are having a stroke get to the nearest hospital, false. There are hospitals who specialize in recognize stroke and treating stroke. Going to the correct hospital does make a difference. Find out which hospitals in your area specialize in treating stroke. I should know since my stroke went full blow while I was in the wrong type of hospital. That hospital confirmed I had a stroke some 24 hours later but the damage was already done. Most importantly a stroke can be reversed with drugs but they have to be administer in a short window of time. The stroke certified hospitals are trained what to look for and can administer the drugs correctly. You owe it to yourself, loved ones and others to learn about stroke and know the signs on how to recognize if someone is having one.

If you our unfortunate to have a stroke don't give up! Yes it's a bad thing but it is not the end of your world or your families. There are plenty of adjustments you'll need to make with life in general but just know there is life after stroke. One thing I'll tell you is never give up hope you'll get better! Your doctor may give out doom and gloom but do not believe him or her. Focus on getting better, then work on that. Set goals for yourself and when you reach them set a new goal. The goals do not need to be major, just something you would like to do. One goal I had was just to move a finger. You might say that is rather small but since I could not move anything it was rather huge to me! What is also untrue is you'll never get anything back after the first year. What a lie! Changes take place all the time. Yes some might say I got dealt a rather bad hand but I would not say that. No I do not like what happened to me but a lot of good came from this bad and I would had never accomplished what I had if it was not for my stroke. God has used me for His glory and it was shown to myself and to others as well. I worked harder than I ever had in my life to get better but it was God who took me this far. He gave me the strength to endure all that I have to go through. Please do not get angry at God or feel sorry for me or yourself if you had a stroke and say why me Lord. Instead the question should be why not me Lord and what would you like me to learn from this?

Humor is something that helps to get through things as well. Keep a smile it helps!


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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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