It has been nearly 18 years since I survived an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord while in hospital for an ascending to descending aortic bypass operation. Initially, I was painfully aware of the negative effects from the stroke: the inability to run, walk or even stand on my own – just to name a few of the challenges and obstacles it presented in my everyday life. Over the years, I have seen some wonderful things happen that I believe were only possible from my stroke.
My relationship with my wife stronger because of my stroke
My stroke occurred just 68 days into my engagement to the girl who is my wife today.
Kimberly was by my side every moment during the first 2 weeks after my stroke. She sat in my hospital room and slept in a uncomfortable chair every night. She opened milk cartons and placed straws into them when my hands were not working, she helped turn me in my bed and positioned the fans in the room to keep me cool when I was sweating. She comforted me when I screamed out during the night in fear and frustration and she advocated for me when I couldn’t do it for myself.
During the three weeks I was in the rehab hospital she was there every waking moment of my day, only going home at night to sleep. She attended nearly every therapy session with me where she cheered and encouraged me through the toughest time of my life.
When I returned home, she would drive across town to help me get up and get dressed in the morning before she drove back across town to her job. After work she spent the evening at my apartment taking care of me until she put me to bed and returned to her own home.
Sadly, such a life altering event as what I went through has destroyed many relationships not to mention marriages. Fortunately for me, and by the grace of God, it had the opposite effect for us. My stroke brought myself and Kimberly closer together than I think we would be today if I had not had a stroke. We are very protective of each other and appreciate every moment we are blessed to be together.
I discovered the good and compassion in my fellow man (and woman)
Before my stroke I never knew how many compassionate people there are in the world. I had seen people cut each other off on the roads and cut into lines at the supermarket and let doors slam in the face of someone behind them as they left a room in a hurry to get somewhere.
Since my stroke I have witnessed strangers stopping to help me when I dropped something, have gotten stuck or fallen while in my wheelchair or on my scooter. I have seen people wait for me to get on and off a bus with patience, and I have seen people race over to open a door for me.
It has been refreshing to see people care about others than the norm of people looking out for just themselves.
I discovered I am stronger than I had thought
The stroke took away almost all my independence along with my ability to perform most of my activities for daily living. I could have wound up in long term care for the west of my life – at least that was what I feared. Instead, I discovered a level of determination, hard work, resourcefulness, courage and strength that I did not know I had to push myself through therapy. Even when my insurance gave up on me, I found ways to continue my therapy at home on my own. Although it took me nearly a decade, I taught myself how to use a walker then a rollator – allowing me to be able to get out of a wheelchair and experience more independence in my life.
The stroke has helped me find my purpose in life.
My recovery from my stroke and my fight to get my life back, along with many other challenges, obstacles, advertises, limitations and setbacks I have overcame in my life, has shown me that I have stories to share with others that can inspire and motivate others to overcome and succeed in life.
When I survived my stroke in the summer of 2002, I did not see it as a blessing at first. Today, despite all I have lost and suffered from the stroke, I see it as one of the greatest blessings in my life.