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Marsha & Collier


Stroke Prevention: Marsha and Collier’s Lifestyle Change After Their Stroke

Two friends of my family had strokes in the last four years. It was a very close call with our New York City friend who was in his 80s at the time. He landed in the ER, his daughter by his side crying softly. The second friend, a retired nurse who lived on Long Island, knew the signs and quickly had her daughter rush her to the hospital where doctors verified she had a TIA and was at risk for a greater one unless she underwent an operation.  

Collier, who had more severe damage, was in the hospital on medications in a typical recovery period for his age.  Stabilized and recuperating well, Collier graduated to rehabilitative care until he was able to go home.  There, he continued to receive physical and occupational therapy to  and was completely restored to health and activity. During this period he was forced to rely on an accessible van for transportation. Marsha was operated on and the pressured relieved. In her 60s, her recuperation was easier and she required less physical therapy since there was less damage. Her daughter credits this to her nursing education and recognizing the signs of what was happening to her, painful headaches and then blacking out.

Today, if you were to look at Collier at 90, you would never dream he had had a stroke four years ago. He is fit, he is tanned, his attitude is cheerful and he remains active with his daughter, son-in-law and his grandchildren, going to their home in Connecticut during the summer and enjoying the opera and other cultural events in New York City during the year.  Though Collier lost his wife two years ago, they were married for over 50 years, Collier’s network of family and friends sustained him through the rough time and continue to keep him vibrant.

Likewise, you would never think that Marsha, now 70, had an operation, and that if she didn’t recognize the stroke signs or ignored them, she might have been severely injured by the TIA. Today she is as active as ever helping her daughter who had a back operation, and encouraging her grandson to get through college, though he has Asperger’s syndrome. The daughter and grandson live with Marsha and actually, Marsha is more active than her daughter, whose back operation, which left her with residual pain wasn’t as successful as they had hoped. In fact, nothing seems to keep her down. She now enjoys writing for The Mobility Resource in her free time.

Marsha and Collier’s stories are happy ones. They were able to recover, but they worked at recovery and after contemplation, decided they had to change their lifestyles so they would be able to enjoy the years they possibly had left.

Collier realized he must work at recovery to restore himself to what was before. He also realized what might have exacerbated the stroke.  He had been traveling for his business to the point where it stressed him out. Traveling, he led irregular sleeping patterns and unhealthful eating patterns.  As he recuperated, he decided to eliminate future business travel and decrease his business activity. He allowed a regular regimen to take over, insuring he received enough rest, little stress and an improved diet.  He cut down on his salt and sugar intake, increased eating fruits and vegetables and limited his drinking to only a glass of red wine sometimes with meals if he was at a dinner party or at a restaurant. He cut down on red meat, breads, luncheon meats (high in salt) and predominately ate free range chicken, wild salmon and other oily fish.  Generally, he ate more fish than he had before.

Marsha had smoked all her life and though she had tried various ways to stop, including hypnotherapy, electronic cigarettes, the nicotine patch, and pills, nothing worked and she continued her addiction. After the TIA wake up call, she stopped cold turkey. Though every now and then she has a cigarette, it takes her months to go through an entire pack. She is too frightened of a reoccurrence and she knows if she goes back to her old smoking habit of three packs a day, she may not recognize the signs the next time because she will be felled by a stroke in one swoop. Along with stopping smoking, she has lost weight. She had gained more weight than she realized until she was weighed at the hospital. She had a big sweet tooth and ate dessert after dinner every night. Gradually, she jettisoned the sweets by having one less dessert a week, then two, etc.  Now she is down to one dessert a week which is a reward for her weight loss. She continued to change her diet by decreasing her intake of the whites:  bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, flour products like pastries. She also used half as much salt on her food and she stopped drinking diet sodas completely, drinking water, nonfat milk and tea. Losing weight and stopping smoking encouraged her to be more active. She walks three times a week with friends in the neighborhood and at a regular pace. She finds she is able to keep up without panting and is thrilled at her progress.

Collier and Marsha believe they could have prevented their strokes if they had taken the right precaution, but no one could tell them this. They had to have their backs to the wall before they could change themselves. They were fortunate that they received a second chance to change.  Nevertheless, when someone asks Collier what happened after his daughter mentions he had a stroke, they always look amazed. He cheerfully tells his story. Marsha knows the futility of telling friends they shouldn’t smoke. She has stopped preaching to them and both have family and friends who are not eating healthily and have lifestyle habits that are destructive.  Whether they change is up to them. Collier and Marsha know the positive effect of giving a sweet nudge and letting the topic float away. Both have realized the power of actions and behavior. They have received a second chance and their gratefulness and lifestyle change speaks volumes.


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