How often do we think about rolling over in bed? How is it that we are able to move our limbs on command without any effort? Those are things that I never thought about. Things that I took for granted, at least until I could not do them. On Nov. 23, 2008, just days away from the Thanksgiving holidays, the unthinkable occurred.
I was sleeping rather soundly after a routine Sunday of watching football. I consciously attempted to roll over in bed, something I have done on thousands of nights. I couldn’t do it. I tried to boost my body by using my left arm. I couldn’t do it. I tried to push harder using my left leg. I couldn’t do it. The entire left side of my body was paralyzed and would not respond to the commands. The simple movement I had grown accustomed to doing without much conscious effort had abandoned me. My breathing was somewhat labored and my speech was slower than normal.
Fortunately, my wife quickly realized how serious the situation was. I could not turn on my side or even sit up with her help. She called 911, and the paramedics arrived within five minutes. The paramedics assessed that I was in the process of having a stroke. I was transported to Trinity Advocate Hospital, just minutes from my home.
The hospital personnel felt that there was a tight time frame for administering a powerful clot-busting drug. My wife and I were informed of the possible hazards involved with the drug, such as bleeding in the brain. The drug was administered through an IV. After 45 to 50 minutes, though it seemed a lot longer, I could move my limbs. I will never take that for granted again.
I was transferred to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center. Over a period of several days, I was given a battery of tests to determine what caused the stroke. The tests and an angiogram revealed a 100 percent blockage in my major right carotid artery. Yet I am able to write this right now due to the care that I received. I don’t take my health for granted as I did in the past.
I realize that I have been given a second chance. I plan to take advantage of my second chance by informing others, particularly men, about stroke and the warning signs, the importance of a healthy lifestyle and regular checkups, especially as we get older.
I have learned a lot during this incredible two-year journey. I would like to acknowledge the nursing staff and medical personnel in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit, the third-floor staff of the Kellogg Building, the staff that provides the Life after Stroke monthly meetings, Yulonda Lundy and Dr. Christopher Reger, and the Rush physical therapy department, especially Laura Mathias.
I am indebted to both Drs. Michael Chen and Shyam Prabhakaran. Dr. Prabhakaran has given me support and encouragement during the most traumatic period of my life while Dr. Chen performed the angiogram.
Today, I am not fully ambulatory. I use a cane and wear a foot ankle orthotic on my left leg. I have a lot of issues with pain and spasticity. I fatigue easily and often feel depressed. It is because of these issues that I will no longer be able to teach, due to the strenuous nature of the job (physically and mentally).
However, adversity teaches people valuable lessons. You focus on the things that are truly important in life, the love and support of family and friends, and the power of prayer. I have been given a second chance that many stroke victims do not get. I will not take that for granted.
I can say that I am happy to be a stroke SURVIVOR!