I am writing about the last 18 months of my life to give tribute and thanks to God for being with me in a time of a terrible health crisis. I am a living, breathing, walking, talking miracle, a tribute to the power and love that God has for us. On August 19, 2014 at approximately 6:30 p. m. I had a severe stroke that nearly killed me. The first thing the doctors told my wife, Marsha, was that the damage to my brain was so great that I wouldn’t survive. When I passed the timeline of death or life, which I believe is 72 hours (3 days), they then told her that I would likely survive but would be permanently paralyzed on my left side and would be bedridden for the rest of my life. The stroke wasn’t from a plaque buildup in the artery as is common, but rather was the result of a blood clot that went to my right carotid artery. Instead of immediately blocking the artery it partially blocked it, increasing the blood pressure going to my brain. The increased pressure tore off two large chunks and four smaller chunks before the clot totally clogged the artery. The neurologist said the effect was the same as being shot in the head with a shotgun. The largest piece damaged the area of the brain that controls my left arm, leaving it paralyzed and feelingless. The next largest piece took out my left leg, leaving it also totally paralyzed and feelingless. The four smaller pieces took my vision, speech, emotions, and balance. Needless to say I was a total mess.
My wife was home at the time, watching television in the bedroom while I was in the living room watching television in the recliner. She came through to check on the dinner I had been preparing and found me laying in the floor, unable to speak or move. I don’t remember Marsha coming through nor our youngest daughter coming in at all. Marsha somehow managed to get a baby aspirin down me. In the past she had worked in a nursing home as an aide and had seen strokes and recognized the symptoms. Her quick action probably saved my life and made a difference in the severity of the stroke. She called 911 pretty quickly to get medical help for me, which also helped. I don’t remember the firemen or paramedics getting there, nor could I see them. I remember hearing voices but that is all. The next thing I remember is the ambulance crew loading me up to move me from St. John’s Hospital to the Claremore Nursing Home 10 days later. I don’t remember anything after being loaded into the ambulance and don’t remember being unloaded at the nursing home. The first thing I remember is about 3 weeks into the nursing home stay. I tried to sit up in bed and would have wound up in the floor but the bedside table and my wonderful wife caught me before I hit the floor. My roommate immediately pushed the call button and an aide was quickly there to help and called out for more assistance. Two more aides came in and helped get me laid down again.
Marsha told me that my stay in the hospital was adventurous to say the least. Although I don’t remember any of it she told me I was continually trying to get up and walk to the restroom, only to hit the floor. They moved me from one room in the stroke unit to another one across the hall from the nurse station so they could watch me closer. They also put a bed alarm under me that would go to dinging if I tried to get up. Marsha threatened to get some “girly” duct tape to restrain me if I would not stay put, and actually bought a roll that is pink with powder blue puppies. Although I really don’t remember that conversation, she later told me that solved the problem and I never again tried to get out of the bed,
Thankfully my speech and vision came back rather quickly, sometime during my hospital stay. I couldn’t speak very well but Marsha could understand enough of my gibberish to be able to interpret for others. The first thing I remember at the nursing home is the physical therapy team getting me out of bed into a wheelchair, about 3 weeks into my stay there. It took 3 of them and once in the chair I fell over to the left as I couldn’t yet balance myself. The first time the stood me up in the parallel bars there were 3 of them once again, one on each side and one in front keeping my left knee from buckling on me. I remember doing various things, including stepping up on a Tulsa phone book while being balanced by the 3 therapists. They were really wonderful and very patient with me as I was a total wreck for quite some time. I had an hour of physical therapy, an hour of occupational therapy, and an hour of speech therapy daily Monday through Friday. I progressed to the point where I could stand in the parallel bars by myself and then got to the point that I could walk up and down the path on my own. The therapy team worked very hard to help me improve to the point that I could use what they call a “hemi” walker, a short A-fame device that I could use on the right side to aid my balance when I walked. After a few weeks I could go down to the dining room for my meals and managed to get in and out of bed by myself, a huge improvement.
All of the people at Claremore Nursing home, nurses, aids, dietary staff, and the therapy team were absolutely wonderful to me during my 10 week stay. I go back to visit from time to time to show them my progress and to express my continued appreciation for their care during my stay. When I was first able to comprehend my situation Marsha told me what had transpired at the hospital and what the doctors had told her initially. There are hundreds of people, most of which don’t even know me, praying for my recovery and I have seen the benefit of those prayers as I have progressed to the point that I carry my cane most of the time rather than use it to walk. I still can’t use my left arm or hand, yet, but the range of motion without pain is much better, thanks to God and continued therapy at Summit Physical Therapy in Claremore. I keep saying yet because yet is the proper term for what I can’t do now. I remember when I couldn’t stand up by myself and told the therapists “I can’t, yet, but I will someday”. After 10 weeks in the nursing home I was able to walk out using a cane. I still have a lot of issues with my emotions, often becoming choked up when people say kind things to me or offer their well-wishes for my recovery. The best aspect is that with all the physical disability the stroke didn’t adversely affect my personality, something Marsha had feared. She had seen very kind people become hateful and rude from a stroke but my personality is the same as it has always been. My God-given ability to write was also unaffected other than the time it took to be able to regain my cognitive faculties.
God has brought me from the very brink of death, through a time of total disability, to the present state of limited ability, is continually showing me improvement, and will restore me to fullness when He is ready for me to be there. In the 18 months since the stroke I have grown closer to God and have never doubted that He would heal me completely and bring me back to my pre-stroke condition, or better. God is the Great Physician who heals all infirmities. I call on Him daily, giving thanks for the past progress and praying in faith for continued healing. Every night I pray and ask God to let me wake up the next morning totally healed. That hasn’t happened, yet, but one day I will see that healing process finished and my body working as it should. Until that day comes I will praise God for His mercy to me and believe His promise to restore me by faith, prayer, and my efforts to help myself. We all have a part to play in God’s plan for our lives. I could have all the faith possible but if I had felt sorry for myself and refused to work toward recovery I would still be bedridden. God is doing what He promised and I am doing what He expects me to do; have faith, pray, and work toward recovery. I will continue to play my role in this walk and let God play His role. God helps he who helps himself and I will continue to help myself to the best of my ability, knowing that God has the largest role in my recovery and I will honor Him to the best of my ability. This is only part of the story. The rest will come when my healing is complete. I am a living, breathing, walking, talking miracle and I give thanks to God every day for what he has done for me and also for what He is going to do in the future. I know He holds me in His loving hands and takes care of me each and every day. People at church have seen the change in my condition since I started attending again back in August and they are rejoicing and praising God right along with me.
I submit this in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, in faith, with the responsibility given to me by Almighty God to honor His work and not let it die from neglect.
February 24, 2016