On the morning of the 25th of July 2002 I entered a hospital in Northern California to undergo an ascending to descending aortic bypass. (A necessary surgery to correct a constricted aorta, a congenital heart condition caused by the rubella syndrome.)
When I placed my feet on the floor and began to stand for the first time after my surgery, I quickly fell to the floor. When I tried to stand a second time, I fell to the floor quicker and harder than I did the first time.
After undergoing an MRI a neurologist told me and my fiancée Kimberly that I had an injury to my spinal cord. (I would later learn that the diagnosis was that I survived an ischemic stroke to the spinal cord.)
Although I couldn’t walk, stand, dress myself, turn myself in my bed, I didn’t have any bladder control and I needed help to feed myself, I was determined to get my life back.
I started physical therapy almost immediately. I knew the stakes were high so I worked harder in therapy than I had ever worked for anything before in my life.
About two weeks later I made the decision to continue therapy in a rehabilitation hospital before returning home.
Three weeks after entering the rehabilitation hospital, I returned home in a wheelchair for the first time after my surgery.
I had just began outpatient physical therapy after returning home when I started to experience a burning pain in my left leg. The pain seem to increase every day until I went to the emergency room where I was told that I had a life threatening blood clot. I was immediately admitted to hospital and started on blood thinners.
When I was discharged I was not permitted to return to outpatient therapy until my blood clots disappeared.
While I was out of inpatient therapy waiting for my blood clots to dissolve I found things in my apartment to do on my own to continue to rebuild my strength.
When I was able to return to physical therapy I worked hard to make up for the time I had lost from the blood lot.
When my insurance stopped paying for my outpatient therapy, I refused to stop pushing for the best possible recovery. I kept setting goals for myself and finding ways to accomplish those goals. Some goals were easier to accomplish than others. Sometimes I had a setback or even a nasty fall when I pushed myself, but I didn’t let anything stop me.
Over the years since my ischemic stroke to the spinal cord I have taught myself how to use a walker and a rollator (A walker with four wheels).
Today Kimberly and I live in Webb City Missouri with our two cats Gateway and KC. These days I can dress myself, feed myself and for the most part I have control of my bladder.
At home I get around by grabbing onto walls and other objects as I walk, and sometimes swing, through our home. I help Kimberly with the household chores including cleaning the litter box and meal prep and cleanup.
When I am away from home I get around with my rollator and for longer distances I use my scooter.
I am active in our community. I volunteer as a lunch buddy through the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Through the program I have lunch with a local student once a week at his school during the school year.
I also volunteer weekly at a local hospital. I work in the ICU where I check visitors into the unit and answer calls – with compassion and sympathy for what the loved ones of our patients are going through.